We prefer the thede.
While previous research has suggested that we prefer voices that sound like they are coming from smaller women or bigger men, the new study – published today in the journal PLOS ONE – identifies a variety of other acoustic signals that we find appealing.
“The voice is an amazingly flexible tool that we use to construct our identity,” says lead author Molly Babel, a professor in the Department of Linguistics. “Very few things in our voices are immutable, so we felt that our preferences had to be about more than a person’s shape and size.”
Aside from identifying the overwhelming allure of one’s own regional dialects, the study finds key gender differences. It showed a preference for men who spoke with a shorter average word length, and for “larger” sounding male voices, a finding that supports previous research.
For females, there was also a strong preference for breathier voices – a la Marilyn Monroe – as opposed to the creakier voices of the Kardashians or Ellen Page. The allure of breathiness – which typically results from younger and thinner vocal cords – relates to our cultural obsession with youthfulness and health, the researchers say. A creaky voice might suggest a person has a cold, is tired or smokes regularly.
Babel says the findings indicate that our preference for voices aren’t all about body size and finding a mate, it is also about fitting in to our social groups.