Science of Love

Your Voice Changes When You Talk to Someone Attractive

Clumsy, awkward moments seem to happen exponentially more often when you're around your crush. (Convenient, right?) But the pitch of someone's voice may give another subtle clue as to how they feel about their conversation partner. If you're talking with a slightly lower-than-normal speaking pitch, it may mean you think the person you're gabbing with is a babe.

Related Video: The 3 Stages and 7 Chemicals of Love

Keep Your Ears Open

According to a 2010 study published in the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, people subconsciously tweak the pitch of their voice when they're chatting with someone they think is good-looking. Both heterosexual men and women tended to lower their voices if their opposite-sex conversation partner was deemed attractive. (Imagine the sound of Barry White and Kathleen Turner chatting it up and you get the idea.)

"There is a body of evidence to suggest that individuals manipulate their voices when speaking to different people and in different situations," says the study. For example, you'll probably alter the sound of your voice when talking to your boss or telling a lie. And although the researchers in this study predicted men would lower their voices and women would raise the pitch of their voices when talking to an attractive target — as men with lower voices and women with higher voices are seen as desirable by the opposite sex — that wasn't the case. Strange, right?

Though the results of the study may seem counterintuitive, it's consistent with other research. For example, a 1979 study asked participants to simulate a ''sexy voice." To do this, men and women both greatly decreased the pitch of their voices, with females lowering the frequency of their voices even more than the men did. According to the study, "this suggests that the motivation to display a sexy/seductive female voice may conflict with the motivation to sound more feminine and/or reproductively fit."

Differences in fundamental frequency (mean pitch) of voice samples obtained from male callers speaking to an attractive and unattractive individual.
Differences in fundamental frequency (mean pitch) of voice samples obtained from female callers speaking to an attractive and unattractive individual.

Your Voice Box Is Only the Beginning

Besides your voice changing, being around someone you perceive as attractive can affect you in plenty of ways. (Remember that "Mean Girls" scene when Lindsay Lohan's character says "grool?")

But how do we even decide what attractiveness is? This SciShow video sums up beauty in a way that isn't very sexy but does give a scientific perspective as to why we prefer certain "attractive" traits: Beauty is a language that conveys information about health and fertility. From a survival standpoint, finding a healthy, fertile mate is your best chance at successfully spreading your genes. Producing offspring is the main evolutionary objective for living beings, after all.

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If you'd like to learn more about the science of love and attraction, check out "The Chemistry Between Us: Love, Sex, and the Science of Attraction" by Larry Young and Brian Alexander. We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Written by Joanie Faletto February 1, 2017

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