Certainly, Mam… um, sorry, sir

As I think I’ve mentioned before, my voice falls on the higher end of the range for men.  I guess this means I should feel proud of accomplishing a decent bit in life given this handicap of mine (the title of the post refers to the awkward moments I’ve been known to have with strangers on the telephone).  Some interesting new research:

Want to lead like a boss? Then speak like a man.

And by that I mean literally speak like a man.

Study after study has suggested that low voices, “masculine” voices, are an asset to those seeking leadership roles, in politics and beyond. And that’s so in part because we don’t simply think of vocal pitch–the physical trait determined by the size of one’s larynx and the length and mass of one’s vocal folds–in terms of physicality. We prefer low voices because, we assume, voices say something far beyond the words they convey: We perceive men with lower-pitched voices to be more attractive and physically stronger–and also more competent and more trustworthy–than their less burly-voiced peers. And we perceive women with lower-pitched voices along the same lines (though we also tend to perceive them, tellingly, as less attractive than their Betty Boop-y counterparts).

What’s more, our preference for low-voiced leaders holds true, it seems, for those in–and seeking–traditionally “feminine” leadership roles. A new study, published in the journal PLOSOne, has documented a bias toward low-pitched voices even when the owners of those voices are seeking to lead female-dominated bodies like school boards and PTAs. “Overall,” the authors note, “contrary to research showing that perceptions of voice pitch can be influenced by social context, these results suggest that the influence of voice pitch on perceptions of leadership capacity is largely consistent across different domains of leadership.”

Time to start practicing speaking in a lower register, I guess.

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

One Response to Certainly, Mam… um, sorry, sir

  1. That happens to me a lot too – in fact I was just thinking about this as I watched a video our staff made that included me talking.

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