Women's voices become more high-pitched during ovulation
October 23, 2008 Category: Research
UCLA RESEARCH ALERT
A new UCLA study adds to mounting evidence that human ovulation — a state once thought to be undetectable without medical equipment — actually prompts a range of subtle but observable behaviors aimed at attracting the best possible mate. The authors show for the first time that women unconsciously change their voices with the approach of ovulation, using a higher, more feminine pitch in social communication.
Operating on the assumption that higher pitch is generally perceived as more attractive and more feminine, researchers recorded the voices of 69 women during two phases of their ovulatory cycle: once when fertility was low and once near ovulation (confirmed using hormone tests). The closer women were to ovulation, the more they raised their pitch. This difference was found only when women spoke a simple introductory sentence — "Hi, I'm student at UCLA" — and not for simple vowel sounds.
The study shows that women unconsciously change their voice in relation to fertility, and possibly only in social communication contexts. This change is part of a suite of behaviors women engage in during high fertility, research is now finding. Other changes have been detected in how they dress, how they walk and the mates they prefer. Higher voice pitch in women indicates the presence of feminizing hormones, and it also correlates with being younger. Both qualities tend to correlate with high fertility, so men have evolved to be attracted to these cues.
Gregory A. Bryant, a UCLA assistant professor of communication studies, and Martie G. Haselton, a UCLA associate professor of communication studies and psychology, are available for interviews.
"Vocal Cues of Ovulation in Human Females" appears in the December 2008 issue of Biology Letters, which was posted online this month. The paper can be viewed at http://journals.royalsociety.org/content/0w42954j6731840n/fulltext.pdf.