Average Isn’t Always Attractive: New Voice Perception Insights

Summary: A new study challenges the belief that average-sounding voices are always more attractive. Researchers found that pitch, rather than averageness, plays a crucial role in vocal attractiveness.

This study used advanced voice morphing technology to create average-sounding voices for participants to rate. The findings suggest that unique voice characteristics can be more appealing than blending in.

Key Facts:

  1. Challenging Averageness: Average-sounding voices are not inherently more attractive.
  2. Importance of Pitch: Pitch is a critical factor in how attractive a voice is perceived.
  3. Advanced Technology: Researchers used voice morphing to create and test average-sounding voices.

Source: McMaster University

New insights into how people perceive the human voice are challenging beliefs about which voices we find attractive.

Previous studies have linked vocal averageness and attractiveness, finding that the more average a voice sounds, the higher it is rated in attractiveness.

However, McMaster researchers have found that average voice characteristics are not inherently appealing, and it may be beneficial to stick out from the crowd.

This shows a couple talking.
Vocal attractiveness refers to how beautiful or handsome a voice makes someone sound to a listener. Credit: Neuroscience News

“Contrary to past studies, we discovered that averageness is not always more attractive. Pitch is a critical factor in attraction judgements, an insight that highlights the complexity of the way we perceive the human voice,” explained study lead Jessica Ostrega, who recently earned her Ph.D. in Psychology, Neuroscience, and Behavior.

“Understanding this allows us to look at how specific features of a person’s voice affect the way we form impressions of others and interact with them.”

The findings are outlined in a study published this month in the journal Scientific Reports. Researchers used advanced voice morphing technology to blend multiple voices together to create average-sounding voices to use in their experiments. They asked participants to rate the attractiveness of those voices.

Vocal attractiveness refers to how beautiful or handsome a voice makes someone sound to a listener. The term goes beyond simple appeal to encompass characteristics that might influence romantic or sexual interest.

“This research contributes to a deeper understanding of the complex dynamics of human communication and attraction,” said David Feinberg, associate professor in the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behavior, who oversaw the research, adding that the implications of the study extend beyond the academic realm into practical applications.

“Understanding the nuances of voice perception can influence practices in industries such as marketing, media, and even technology design, where voice interfaces are becoming increasingly common.”

About this vocal perception research news

Author: Jessica Ostrega
Source: McMaster University
Contact: Jessica Ostrega – McMaster University
Image: The image is credited to Neuroscience News

Original Research: Open access.
No evidence that averaging voices influences attractiveness” by Jessica Ostrega et al. Scientific Reports


No evidence that averaging voices influences attractiveness

Vocal attractiveness influences important social outcomes.

While most research on the acoustic parameters that influence vocal attractiveness has focused on the possible roles of sexually dimorphic characteristics of voices, such as fundamental frequency (i.e., pitch) and formant frequencies (i.e., a correlate of body size), other work has reported that increasing vocal averageness increases attractiveness.

Here we investigated the roles these three characteristics play in judgments of the attractiveness of male and female voices.

In Study 1, we found that increasing vocal averageness significantly decreased distinctiveness ratings, demonstrating that participants could detect manipulations of vocal averageness in this stimulus set and using this testing paradigm.

However, in Study 2, we found no evidence that increasing averageness significantly increased attractiveness ratings of voices.

In Study 3, we found that fundamental frequency was negatively correlated with male vocal attractiveness and positively correlated with female vocal attractiveness.

By contrast with these results for fundamental frequency, vocal attractiveness and formant frequencies were not significantly correlated.

Collectively, our results suggest that averageness may not necessarily significantly increase attractiveness judgments of voices and are consistent with previous work reporting significant associations between attractiveness and voice pitch.

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