Sep. 21, 2011 at 9:10 AM ET
Pssst! Guys, if you want that hottie sitting beside you to remember your stunning good looks long after you’ve left, lower the pitch of your voice when you turn on the charm.
Lower voices seem to stick better in women’s memories, scientists now say. In a study published in this month’s Memory & Cognition, British researchers reported that women were more likely to remember something if they heard it from a man with a low voice than one with a higher pitch.
The theory is that women are hard-wired to pay better attention to a potentially superior mate.
“The reason that male voice pitch should be important is that the pitch of the voice gives an indication of how much testosterone the man has,” said the study’s lead author, Kevin Allan, a lecturer in psychology at the University of Aberdeen in the United Kingdom. “Lots of testosterone produces pronounced masculine features, in the voice and face most notably.”
Studies have shown that testosterone impacts the immune system, Allan said. “So, if a man has a rugged masculine face and voice then it implies that he has a good immune system and therefore good health,” he explained.
And that’s the payoff, in evolutionary terms: healthy daddies are more likely to make healthy babies.
To look at the impact of male voice pitch on women’s memories, Allan and his colleagues rounded up 45 young women whose average age was 21.
The women were shown an image of an object while listening to a voice read the name of the object. The male voices were manipulated to sound either high or low pitched.
Later on, the women were shown a picture of the object they’d looked at earlier, along with a picture that was similar, but slightly different -- a plain blue fish versus the same blue fish with a yellow blotch.
When the researchers tallied up the number of times each woman picked the right picture, they discovered that the women were more likely to remember if they’d initially seen the object while a low pitched male voice was naming it.
So, does it work the other way round?
Allan says not. “We did collect data from men who were listening to women’s voices that were high and low in pitch,” he explained. “We found no effect on the men’s memory at all. Our conclusion about the absence of the effect in men’s memory is that men are picking partners based purely on physical characteristics.”