No wonder my wife can’t remember anything I say

Well, it’s no surprise that women prefer men with deep voices.  Yet, despite the fact that roughly 1/3 of the time telemarketers refer to me as “m’am,” I found a good woman anyway.  Alas, it’s not only a preference for deep voices, women actually remember things better they hear from a lower male voice:

In a recent experiment, researchers asked 45 women to try to remember objects that flashed on their computer screens—innocuous items like “fish” or “microscope.” As the items appeared, either a male or female voice identified them; these voices were either slightly raised in pitch, by audio-editing software, or slightly lowered.

In a follow-up test, the women saw pairs of objects and were asked which ones they’d studied. For the purposes of memorization, there was no effect of pitch alteration when it came to female voices: The participants remembered roughly the same number of objects whether the voices were extra-high or extra-low.

But the women remembered 84.7% of the objects spoken by extra-low male voices, compared with 77.8% for those spoken by a the higher male voices, a statistically significant difference. (A second experiment that incorporated non-altered voices found much the same thing, with the unaltered male voice performing midway between the high and low voices. Again, there was no relationship between female-pitch and memory, with this female audience.)

The two experiments “indicate for the first time,” the authors write, ” … that signals from the opposite sex important for mate choice affect the accuracy of women’s memory.” One hypothesis is that women have learned (in the evolutionary sense) to pay special attention to “conspicuously masculine” men, because these men are 1) potentially attractive mates; and 2) potentially dangerous, because of heightened aggressiveness, for example.

Hmmm, perhaps I’ll take solace in that second hypothesis.  Surely, I don’t lack for attractiveness :-).

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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