The researchers state in their paper’s abstract, “In humans, voice pitch is thought to be a cue of underlying quality and an important criterion for mate choice, but data from non-Western cultures have not been provided.”
And, “Here we test attributions to and preferences for voices with raised and lowered pitch in hunter–gatherers.”
Specifically, U.S. anthropologist Coren Apicella and Canadian psychologist David Feinberg, studied 88 members of the Hadza tribe, a hunter-gatherer group still in Tanzania.
Women, the researchers found, are drawn to high-pitched voices only during times of decreased fertility, such as when they are breast-feeding their newborns.
Men, however, were found to prefer high-pitched voices in women, which the researchers said was due to sounding “more subordinate, feminine, healthier and younger.” [Herald Sun: "Guys keep it deep to lure the ladies”]
They stated within their abstract, “Using a forced-choice playback experiment, we found that both men and women viewed lower pitched voices in the opposite sex as being better at acquiring resources (e.g. hunting and gathering)."
"While men preferred higher pitched women's voices as marriage partners, women showed no overall preference for voice pitch in men.”
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Apicella and Feinberg also state, “However, women who were currently breastfeeding had stronger preferences for higher pitched male voices whereas women not currently breastfeeding preferred lower pitched voices.”
They added, “Voice pitch in men, due to its association with testosterone, may provide a signal of immuno-competence and genetic quality and dominance. It is not surprising that women generally prefer men with more masculine or lower-pitched voices." [Herald Sun]
The December 2, 2008 article “Voice pitch alters mate-choice-relevant perception in hunter-gatherers” appears in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
The authors are Coren L. Apicella, from the Department of Anthropology at Harvard University (Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.A.) and David R. Feinberg, from the Department of Psychology (Neuroscience and Behavior) at McMaster University (Hamilton, Ontario, Canada).
They conclude in their abstract, “As testosterone is considered a costly signal associated with dominance, heritable immunity to infection and low paternal investment, women's preferences potentially reflect a trade-off between securing good genes and paternal investment."
"Men's preferences for higher pitched female voices are probably due to an evolved preference for markers of fecundity, reflected in voice pitch.”