Politicians Pitching Low

About 5 months ago, before we’d all been saturated with television debates among Republican Party hopefuls for nomination as the team to compete in next year's US presidential election, I’d wrote an article for Viewshound about how we judge people from the pitch of their voices (1). This was based on freshly published research that had just hit the streets. Now there is some more on that point, but it is now finely focused on voting behavior (2).

This new study is published in the Journal of Ecology and Human Behavior and is authored by Fienberg and his team. In this study they used recordings of politicians and then manipulated the recordings to change the pitch. I should mention that these weren’t just any politicians, but recorded voices of past US President’s.

The participants in the lab voting all preferred the lower pitch voices, which they associated with preferred personality traits. In war situations, and America has been pretty busy in that direction, the perception was that the lower pitch meant that the president had a stronger physical prowess and integrity was less important. It’s almost as if the participants were subconsciously viewing managing a war as though the president was a contender in a boxing match.

In a second experiment which got away from the gravitas of real presidents, even if their voices had been modified, the participants listened to unfamiliar male voices. The spoken words were neutral and not inspiring or rabble rousing, but again the lower pitch was preferred.

Perhaps over the Holidays, our politicians have time to get voice training to get a lower pitch. Maybe in the future we won’t be listening to the words and promises, but electing the guy with the lowest pitch. Not a great prospect for either women candidates or for the future of the country.

  1. http://www.viewshound.com/science/2011/6/pitch-perfect-what-your-voice-says-about-you
  2. http://www.ehbonline.org/article/S1090-5138(11)00102-4/abstract

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