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Sexual behavior predicted by voice attractiveness

Sep 20, 2004; Posted 07:27 pm EDT (11:27 GMT)

If, sight unseen, you think someone sounds attractive, chances are you're right

ALBANY, N.Y. (September 20, 2004) -- University at Albany researchers have found a significant association between the perceived attractiveness of a person's voice and the sexual activity of the speaker. In addition, researchers discovered that judging a voice can predict certain aspects of the body type of the speaker.

"When the phone rings," said psychologist Gordon G. Gallup Jr., "even though you may not know the person at the other end of the line, as soon as they speak you usually know whether you are talking to a male or female, and a child or adult. In other words, the sound of a person's voice conveys information about the biological status of the speaker. Our research shows that voice might be a medium that also conveys subtle information about sexual behavior and body configuration."

In "Ratings of voice attractiveness predict sexual behavior and body configuration," published in the September issue of Evolution and Human Behavior, published by Elsevier, Susan Hughes, Franco Dispenza, and Gordon Gallup of the University's department of psychology tested 149 men and women by having them listen to recorded, neutral voices counting from 1 to 10. They were then asked to rate the anonymous voices on a scale from "very unattractive" to "very attractive." The results were compared to surveys and morphological measurements taken among the speakers. Researchers discovered that people whose voices are judged to be attractive tend to have sexual intercourse at an earlier age, have more sexual partners than those with voices rated less attractive, and are more prone to sexual infidelity. They also have more sex partners among people involved in other relationships.

"In short," Gallup said, "ratings of voice attractiveness are correlated with promiscuity in both men and women."

In addition, the UAlbany researchers linked voice attractiveness to body features, including shoulder-to-hip ratio in men and waist-to-hip ratio in women. In the study, broad shoulders and narrow hips, which are related to testosterone and growth, can, like voice attractiveness, predict promiscuity in males. In women, voice attractiveness was linked to a narrow waist and broad hips, features also affected by hormones and growth and that predict female attractiveness and promiscuity.

The authors also note in their report that there is growing evidence that a person's voice might convey important information not usually associated with communication or sexual appeal. For instance, ratings of voice attractiveness also predict deviations from bilateral symmetry in both men and women. In comparing the length of the fingers on both hands, they noted that people with voices rated as attractive tend to have finger lengths on one hand that more closely match those on the other. As ratings of voice attractiveness decrease, the deviations between features on one side of the body and the other become greater -- in other words, as the voice is rated less attractive, the body tends to be less symmetric.

The report's authors conclude that the sound of a person's voice can be used to predict features associated with reproductive success including sexual behavior, body configuration, and bilateral symmetry, and theorize that prior to the development of means of artificial lighting, at night people were more reliant on voice as a means of discerning valuable reproductive characteristics of others.

For a PDF file of the report, visit http://www.albany.edu/news/pdf_files/press.htm

Contact: Karl Luntta (518) 437-4980

The University at Albany's broad mission of excellence in undergraduate and graduate education, research and public service engages 17,000 diverse students in nine degree-granting schools and colleges. For more information about this internationally ranked institution, visit www.albany.edu. For UAlbany's extensive roster of faculty experts, visit www.albany.edu/news/experts.htm.

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