Summary: A new study reveals a link between vocal characteristics and individual personality traits. Those with deeper voices were more dominant, extroverted, and tended to rank higher in sociosexuality. Researchers found no difference between men and women.
Source: University of Gottingen
Everyone has at some point been charmed by the sound of a person’s voice: but can we believe our ears? What can a voice really reveal about our character?
Now an international research team led by the University of Göttingen has shown that people seem to express at least some aspects of their personality with their voice.
The researchers discovered that a lower pitched voice is associated with individuals who are more dominant, extrovert and higher in sociosexuality (more interested in casual sex). The findings were true for women as well as for men.
The results were published in the Journal of Research in Personality.
The researchers analysed data from over 2,000 participants and included information from four different countries. Participants filled in questionnaires about themselves to measure personality and provided recordings of their voice so that the pitch could be measured using a computer programme.
This is the first time that an objective digital measure of voice pitch has been used in a study of this kind, rather than subjective ratings of how “high” or “deep” a voice might sound.
The researchers measured “sociosexuality” by collecting responses about sexual behaviour, attitude and desire.
They also collected data to provide ratings of dominance and other character traits such as neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness and conscientiousness.
The number of participants helps to confirm the robustness of the findings: the study involves the largest number to date compared to similar research in this theme.
The researchers found that people with lower pitched voices were more dominant, extroverted and higher in sociosexuality (eg were more interested in sex outside a relationship).
However, the relationship between voice pitch and other personality traits (such as agreeableness, neuroticism, conscientiousness or openness) seems less clear. It is possible that these traits are not expressed in the pitch of voices.
The researchers found no difference between men and women.
“People’s voices can make a huge and immediate impression on us,” explains Dr Julia Stern, at the University of Göttingen’s Biological Personality Psychology Group.
“Even if we just hear someone’s voice without any visual clues – for instance on the phone – we know pretty soon whether we’re talking to a man, a woman, a child or an older person. We can pick up on whether the person sounds interested, friendly, sad, nervous, or whether they have an attractive voice. We also start to make assumptions about trust and dominance.” This led Stern to question whether these assumptions were justified. “The first step was to investigate whether voices are, indeed, related to people’s personality. And our results suggest that people do seem to express some aspects of their personality with their voice.”
This study was conducted as a “registered report” which means it benefits from peer review from other researchers at a very early stage and was accepted for publication independent of the results. It is one of the new indicators of quality being developed to make science more transparent and reliable.
About this voice and personality research news
Source: University of Gottingen
Contact: Julia Stern – University of Göttingen
Image: The image is in the public domain
Original Research: Closed access.
“Do voices carry valid information about a speaker’s personality?” by Julia Stern et al. Journal of Personality Research
Do voices carry valid information about a speaker’s personality?
Research on links between peoples’ personality traits and their voices has primarily focused on other peoples’ personality judgments about a target person based on a target person’s vocal characteristics, particularly voice pitch.
However, it remains unclear whether individual differences in voices are linked to actual individual differences in personality traits, and thus whether vocal characteristics are indeed valid cues to personality.
Here, we investigate how the personality traits of the Five Factor Model of Personality, sociosexuality, and dominance are related to measured fundamental frequency (voice pitch) and formant frequencies (formant position).
For this purpose, we conducted a secondary data analysis of a large sample (2217 participants) from eleven different, independent datasets with a Bayesian approach. Results suggest substantial negative relationships between voice pitch and self-reported sociosexuality, dominance and extraversion in men and women.
Thus, personality might at least partly be expressed in people’s voice pitch. Evidence for an association between formant frequencies and self-reported personality traits is not compelling but remains uncertain.
We discuss potential underlying biological mechanisms of our effects and suggest a number of implications for future research.