Higher Voice Pitch Lets Female Faces Appear Younger

Summary: Higher pitched voices in women influence how their faces are evaluated, researchers report. The faces of women with higher-pitched voices were perceived as being younger. However, researchers found no evidence of a link between vocal pitch or perceptions of facial attractiveness, health, or femininity.

Source: University of Vienna

Psychologists and biologists around Christina Krumpholz and Helmut Leder from the University of Vienna investigated whether voice pitch can influence how female faces are evaluated. Their conclusion: a higher voice does indeed influence how the corresponding face is evaluated.

However, this does not apply to all ratings. Faces with a higher voice were rated as younger, but other assumptions that the faces are also rated as more attractive, more feminine or healthier do not apply.

The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology

In the past, the focus of attractiveness research was mainly on the visual sense – which faces are preferred and why?

Gradually, other characteristics such as voice or smell were included in the research. So researchers began thinking that the voice can also convey information about important qualities of the person. For example, in earlier experiments, a higher voice pitch in women was considered more attractive, younger, more feminine and healthier – qualities that are preferred in potential mates from an evolutionary perspective.

But how important is the combination of these different qualities, especially since in everyday life face and voice are firmly linked?

In a new study, PhD student Christina Krumpholz, Professor Helmut Leder and their colleagues asked participants to rate videos of female faces regarding attractiveness, age, femininity and health.

The voice pitch was manipulated in such a way that it was just perceptible, so that the participants saw the same videos twice, but once with a slightly higher voice.

This shows a woman's face
The fact that the audio recordings of higher female voices were not rated as more attractive than lower voices was surprising for the researchers. Image is in the public domain

The aim was to investigate whether these subtle differences in voice pitch have an influence on the evaluation of faces, i.e. whether the voice can be ignored or whether it inevitably influences the judgement.

It turned out that a higher voice leads to faces being assessed as being half a year younger on average.

“So here the voice seems to play an important role that we cannot ignore when evaluating faces”, explains Christina Krumpholz.

It is different with the evaluation of attractiveness, femininity and health. Here the face seems to provide the crucial information, which is why the voice can be ignored and it does not significantly influence the evaluations of faces. 

Surprising outcome

The fact that the audio recordings of higher female voices were not rated as more attractive than lower voices was surprising for the researchers.

“This could indicate that we may need to rethink existing evolutionary psychological concepts and make more room for individual preferences and differences”, Christina Krumpholz comments on the interpretation of the results.

The research team will continue to investigate the role that different senses and their characteristics play in attractiveness evaluations.

About this perception and psychology research news

Author: Veronika Schallhart
Source: University of Vienna
Contact: Veronika Schallhart – University of Vienna
Image: The image is in the public domain

Original Research: Open access.
The Effects of Pitch Manipulation on Male Ratings of Female Speakers and Their Voices” by Christina Krumpholz et al. Frontiers in Psychology


The Effects of Pitch Manipulation on Male Ratings of Female Speakers and Their Voices

Vocal and facial cues typically co-occur in natural settings, and multisensory processing of voice and face relies on their synchronous presentation.

Psychological research has examined various facial and vocal cues to attractiveness as well as to judgements of sexual dimorphism, health, and age. However, few studies have investigated the interaction of vocal and facial cues in attractiveness judgments under naturalistic conditions using dynamic, ecologically valid stimuli.

Here, we used short videos or audio tracks of females speaking full sentences and used a manipulation of voice pitch to investigate cross-modal interactions of voice pitch on facial attractiveness and related ratings.

Male participants had to rate attractiveness, femininity, age, and health of synchronized audio-video recordings or voices only, with either original or modified voice pitch. We expected audio stimuli with increased voice pitch to be rated as more attractive, more feminine, healthier, and younger. If auditory judgements cross-modally influence judgements of facial attributes, we additionally expected the voice pitch manipulation to affect ratings of audiovisual stimulus material.

We tested 106 male participants in a within-subject design in two sessions. Analyses revealed that voice recordings with increased voice pitch were perceived to be more feminine and younger, but not more attractive or healthier. When coupled with video recordings, increased pitch lowered perceived age of faces, but did not significantly influence perceived attractiveness, femininity, or health.

Our results suggest that our manipulation of voice pitch has a measurable impact on judgements of femininity and age, but does not measurably influence vocal and facial attractiveness in naturalistic conditions.

Join our Newsletter
I agree to have my personal information transferred to AWeber for Neuroscience Newsletter ( more information )
Sign up to receive our recent neuroscience headlines and summaries sent to your email once a day, totally free.
We hate spam and only use your email to contact you about newsletters. You can cancel your subscription any time.