Mon Sep 27, 6:20 PM ET Health - Reuters
By Charnicia E. Huggins
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - New research findings suggest that the sound of a person's voice may predict his or her level of sexual activity.
Men and women whose voices were given higher ratings in attractiveness reported having more sex partners and were younger at first intercourse than those whose voices were considered less attractive.
"Thus, the sound of an individual's voice can reveal important information to potential mates," study author Dr. Susan M. Hughes of Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York told Reuters Health.
In the study, 149 men and women listened to recorded voices of anonymous individuals and rated the voices on a five-point scale, from "very unattractive" to "very attractive." On average, six men and six women rated each voice. Study participants also underwent measurements of their shoulders, waists and hips and some anonymously reported various details about their sexual history.
When the researchers compared voice ratings with sexual histories, they found that men and women whose voices were considered more attractive by opposite sex raters reported younger ages at first sexual intercourse, more sex partners and more sexual affairs than did those with less attractive voices.
Voice attractiveness predicted promiscuity in women better than did their waist-to-hip ratio, Hughes and her colleagues report in the September issue of Evolution and Human Behavior. Among men, however, the shoulder-to-hip ratio was a better predictor of promiscuity.
That said, not all women with attractive voices are promiscuous, but "promiscuous females tend to have more attractive voices," co-author Dr. Gordon G. Gallup Jr., of the University at Albany, State University of New York, told Reuters Health.
Women with the most attractive voices, according to opposite sex raters, tended to have smaller waists relative to their hips, whereas men whose voices were rated as more attractive -- regardless of the sex of the rater -- tended to have broader shoulders and narrower hips.
"Voice is shaped and modified by certain hormones, such as testosterone, and these same hormones also play a role in influencing both sexual drive as well as the sex-specific changes in body shape that occur during puberty," Hughes said. "Therefore, the link between voice, body configuration, and sexual behavior may be due to similar hormonal influences, attractiveness promoting sexual opportunity, or both."
During human evolutionary history, voice may have also played a role in how men and women made reproductive-related decisions, particularly at nighttime, the report indicates.
"The sound of a person's voice could have become an important indicator of other biologically relevant information," Gallup Jr. said.
Other researchers have reported an association between facial attractiveness and sperm quality in men and facial attractiveness and longevity in men and women. That is, men who were judged to be more attractive tended to have a higher number of sperm and more mobile sperm than their less attractive peers. The most attractive men and women were also found to live longer than those considered less attractive.
Thus, the authors write, "voice attractiveness may be an indicator (albeit indirect) of other fitness-related features as well."
As men and women search for Mr. or Ms. Right, the current findings suggest that people should not "combine a 'blind' date with a 'deaf' date," Gallup said.
"Given the importance of voice as a dimension along which important features may vary," he said, men and women should not agree to a blind date without first having at least one telephone conversation.
SOURCE: Evolution and Human Behavior, September 2004.