ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2014, Vol. 22 ›› Issue (12): 1953-1963.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2014.01953

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Mate Choice and Human Voice

WU Baopei1; WU Jing2; CHANG Lei2; LI Lu1   

  1. (1 Department of Psychology, Beijing Forestry University, Beijing 100083, China) (2 Department of Educational Psychology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China)
  • Received:2014-03-04 Online:2014-12-15 Published:2014-12-15
  • Contact: WU Baopei, E-mail:


In this paper, we review relevant studies to develop the evolutionary hypothesis that voice quality is related to human mating behavior and that this relationship extends to other domains of human social living. Both men and women show preferences for certain voice quality of the opposite sex. In general, males prefer high-pitched female voice, and females prefer low-pitched male voice. This voice preference results in the carriers having differential reproductive success. We analyze this phenomenon for men and women, respectively. A low voice pitch is partly caused by a longer vocal track due to the descent of the larynx in adolescence that results in smaller formant dispersion. The lowered position of the larynx is associated with higher rates of choking which therefore serves as an honest indicator of good genes. The lowering of the larynx is also associated with increased testosterone which is an indicator of good genes as well as intra-sex combativeness and competitiveness. Thus, sexual selection through female choice, which is mainly for good genes but also male-male competitiveness and thus good provisioning, provides the mechanism underlying the female preference for low pitched male voice. The more straightforward evolutionary explanation of male preference for high pitched female voice is that high pitch indicates fertility and, because of concealed human ovulation, men develop heightened sensitivity over fertility indicators such as high pitched voice. We review these theories and the relevant empirical research supporting the association between the quality of voice and mating success. Beyond mating behavior, we also show that the effect of voice quality extends to other domains by affecting social cognition of and for the target persons with some of the effects being negative. In the end, we discuss a number of directions for future research, including the use of additional voice parameters other than fundamental frequency, the application of sexual selection in analyzing mainstream research on intimate relationships, and the potential relationship between voice preferences and such cognitive processes as attention and memory.

Key words: mate choice, voice pitch, fundamental frequency, hormone, good genes, evolutionary psychology