Study links voice pitch in men with number of children

26 September, 2007

Men with the deepest voices have the most number of children – at least, it’s so in hunter-gatherer populations in Africa.

A group of researchers from the United States spent six months studying a nomadic tribe in Africa and found that the men with the deepest voices have the most children.

The researchers say that is because men with a deep voice have a wider choice of mates.

This is the first study to examine the correlation between voice pitch and child-bearing success, and the results point to the role of voice pitch in Darwinian fitness in humans.

The study has been published online in the latest issue of the journal Biology Letters.

Barry White, the singer, seemed to be a good case to prove the theory that deep-voiced men tend to have more children – he fathered eight children – but the researchers went to Africa to complete their study.

The study was led by Coren Apicella, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Anthropology in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University, with David Feinberg of McMaster University and Frank Marlowe of Florida State University.

Coren Apicella, who has been in Tanzania studying the Hadza hunter-gatherer population there, says: “They’re really neat to study because they’re one of the last hunter-gatherer populations left on the planet.”

She adds: “This means that they're mobile, they sleep under the stars, the men hunt for food using bow and arrow, and women gather food such as berries and they dig for tubers and so forth. This is likely to be how our ancestors lived for much of our evolutionary history, so the Hadza people are really ideal because they provide us with an excellent window to our past. They also don’t use any birth control methods, so they’re what we call a natural fertility population.”

Coren Apicella spent six months in Tanzania interviewing Hadza men and recording their voices. She had them say ‘hujambo,’ which loosely translates in English to ‘hello’ and from that she analyzed their voice pitch and she had conversations with them as well. She also collected their reproductive histories from them.

While the research found that men with low voices too have more children, there is no scientific evidence that it is the voice that makes them more attractive. According to Coren Apicella, so far, the only evidence is anecdotal.

She also says it is hard to determine whether the deeper-voiced men were more attractive than the higher-pitched me.

“It is hard, she says, “because you have to control for age too. I do know a couple of men out there that I personally found attractive – of course they had low voices.”

Men are attractive in a number of ways, so it may be too early for deep-voiced men to get excited by the findings.

More work needed to find out if baritones just have higher testosterone levels, giving them greater prowess, remarks Apicella.




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