George Clooney’s signature deep voice has a bigger effect on other men than women. (Photo: D Dipasupil/FilmMagic)
There’s something sexy about a man with a deep, husky voice (we’re talking to you, George Clooney), but new research out of Penn State says that certain males don’t develop those throaty, low-pitched voices to win over the hearts of female partners. Instead, they’re actually more effective at intimidating the competition.
The researchers conducted several studies on different types of primates, including humans. In the human study, 258 female and 175 male college students read a passage that was recorded by the researchers. Then 558 women and 568 men assessed those recordings. Each male recording was rated by 15 women for both short- and long-term romantic attractiveness, as well as by 15 men for dominance. The researchers discovered that gravely-voiced guys were seen as dominant by other males, but a deep-pitched male voice had less of an impact on igniting attraction in females in the short- or long-term.
Basically, what can be an effective trait at keeping other males at bay may not necessarily help men garner a potential mate. “We find that masculine traits in humans are not the same as, say, in peacocks where the beautiful tail attracts a mate,” David Puts, PhD, lead author of the study and associate professor in the department of anthropology at Penn State University, said in a release. “For example, beards make men more dominant looking, scarier and seemingly more dangerous, but most women prefer clean-shaven men.”
The researchers also tested the saliva of 53 women and two different groups of men for testosterone and the stress hormone cortisol. The researchers found no connection between the pitch of the women’s voices and their hormone levels, but it was a different story for men: For both groups of males, those with deep voices showed high testosterone levels and low cortisol levels.
“Men with low cortisol levels may have less stress because they are more dominant, healthy, or both,” Puts tells Yahoo Beauty. “This relationship with both testosterone and cortisol suggests that a low voice pitch may indicate the strength of the immune system. So the combination of low cortisol and high testosterone is thought to indicate heath, vigor, and competitiveness.”
Having a healthy mate is clearly a desired trait, but it’s no surprise that attraction is more complicated than finding someone with a strong immune system and a deep voice. “Our mate choices depend on many characteristics in a mate,” Puts says. “With regard to men’s voices, we found that women preferred a more masculine voice pitch, but that this effect was smaller than the effect of pitch on other men’s perceptions of a man’s dominance. In our previous work, we’ve found that women tend to prefer a male voice that is a bit more masculine than average. [But] there is also a lot of variation between women in what they prefer.” In other words, to each her own.