Attractiveness of male speakers: Effects of voice pitch and of speech tempo

Author(s): Hugo Quené, Geke Boomsma and Romée van Erning


Men with lower-pitched voices tend to be rated as more attractive by female listeners; this tendency has been attributed to female sexual selection. Males do not only speak with a lower pitch than females, however, but they also tend to speak at a faster tempo. Therefore this study investigates whether speech tempo also affects the subjective attractiveness of male speakers for female listeners. To this end, sentences read by 24 male speakers were changed in relative tempo (factors 0.85, 1.00 and 1.15) and in overall pitch (-1.5, 0, +1.5 semitone). Ratings of attractiveness by female heterosexual listeners show significant effects of both tempo and pitch. Pitch manipulations yield a larger effect than tempo manipulations, perhaps due to the larger between-speaker variation in pitch than in tempo. The effects of tempo and pitch tend to co-vary between listeners, which suggests that individual listeners differ in their joint sensitivity to both speech characteristics. In conclusion, female listeners rate a male speaker as more attractive if his pitch is lower and his tempo faster. Therefore both tempo and pitch may be relevant for speech-based sexual selection of males by females.