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What’s in a Voice?

When it comes to love and courtship, getting-to-know-you chat and spoken sweet nothings may pack a whole lot of something beyond the words being said. In fact, the qualities of men”s and women”s voices appear to transmit biological information about attraction level, health and fertility to a potential partner.

All things being equal . . . For both sexes, the focus of what we may be listening for in another’s voice is body symmetry, or a well-proportioned body. The more attractive a voice is, the more likely the body attached to it is more symmetrical and will be perceived as more physically attractive. Symmetry is important because it may suggest to key to physical survival and fertility information to a potential partner: good hormonal balance, a good immunity and overall health. It’s important to note that body symmetry is not the same thing as body size or body mass index (BMI). There are three types of symmetry that matter most in voice-perceived attractiveness of a member of the opposite sex:

    1. For men: Shoulder-to-Hip ratio (SHP)—The presence of wider shoulders coupled with narrower hips seem to predict perceived attractiveness and higher levels of sexual promiscuity in men. In a study conducted at the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque, behavioral ecologist Randy Thornhill found that males with the most symmetry in their bodies had two to three times the number of sexual partners in a lifetime as did those who have the least symmetrical bodies.


    1. For women: Waist-to-Hip ratio (WHP)—A stature in which a woman’s shoulders and hips are relatively even in size and appear with a narrower waistline, similar to the traditional “hourglass figure,” is perceived as more attractive than a less symmetrical figure. However, one interesting finding is that voice attractiveness of a woman irregardless of her WHP is a better indicator of sexual promiscuity.


  1. For both men and women—Left-to-right side ratio. While everyone has a difference in size between the left and right halves of their bodies, the less difference between the right and left in terms of size, including facial features, the more attractive a person is likely to be rated.

The differences between men and women Men as a rule find higher pitched voices in women to be more attractive than lower voices. Moreover, men can predict the symmetry, and hence attractiveness, of a woman’s face from listening to her voice alone. Estrogen, which is linked to feminine looking faces, is thought to be the cause of both higher voices in women and more attractive facial features. While men cannot predict a woman’s BMI from listening to her voice alone, they can estimate her WHP symmetry.

Women, on the other hand can predict a man’s heaviness and approximate BMI by listening to his voice, but despite his weight, the lower pitched and more attractive his voice is rated, the more symmetrical his body and more sexual partners he is likely to have. More symmetrical males may also have higher self-esteem as a result of being deemed more attractive throughout their lives, so their voices can project confidence and security, two attributes that are also attractive to women. All in all, attraction and chemistry arises from a combination of the senses, but the sound of a person’s voice appears to play a major part in rating a potential partner’s attractiveness. If you shut your eyes and listen closely to the voice of someone you’re attracted to and like what you hear, chances are you’ll probably open your eyes and like what you see, too. References: