How do you decide if a political candidate is trustworthy and competent? Usually it's a matter of their position on various issues. But what if there were more subconscious factors influencing your decision, like the pitch of his or her voice?
Recent research found lower voices were more likely to be perceived as stronger, suggesting a need for more understanding about how our biology may influence our decisions at voting booths. Live Science reports that Casey Klofstad, a professor of political science at the University of Miami, with colleagues from Duke University conducted a study involving fictional candidates who were recorded saying the phrase "I urge you to vote for me this November." Candidates included both men and women whose recorded pitch was manipulated to create both a higher and lower sound. From there, the researchers had 210 participants listen to the voices and decide who sounded stronger and more competent. The team also split up listeners, having 83 listen only to men's recordings and 83 listen only to women's.
Live Science has more on the findings:
The final experiment shed some light on why voters might have leaned toward deep-voiced speakers. In general, deeper voices were viewed as stronger, more trustworthy and more competent than their high-pitched counterparts. There were some gender differences in this perception. For example, both men and women thought that lower-voiced women were stronger, more trustworthy and more competent.
But for male candidates, the gender split was a little different. Women weren't any more likely to see a lower-pitched man as strong, competent and trustworthy than they were a higher-pitched man. But men were.
"They find lower-voiced men to be stronger and more competent," Klofstad said.
The reason may be that men are evolutionarily attuned to judge other men's status, Klofstad said, a remnant of male-to-male competition.
Klofstad points out that this was not a real-world experiment, and therefore we can't pre-judge if pitch will really influence this year's Republican nomination. He does think that pitch should be added to the list of influential factors though, which includes things like position on the issues and appearance. As Malcolm Gladwell points out in his book "Blink", for example, we are innately prejudiced to choose taller men, as opposed to those shorter in stature, for major positions such as CEO of a company.
What's needed next are real-world experiments involving pitch and political candidates, according to Klfostad:
"While we are free to make our own choices at the polls, our study suggests that these choices can't be fully understood until we account for how our biology influences our perceptions," he said.
Klofstad said if these findings do hold in real-world situations, it could mean that it would be harder for women to get elected as their voices are naturally higher than those of men.