Original Paper

Journal of Nonverbal Behavior

, Volume 37, Issue 3, pp 123-138

First online:

People Will Know We Are in Love: Evidence of Differences Between Vocal Samples Directed Toward Lovers and Friends

  • Sally D. FarleyAffiliated withDivision of Applied Behavioral Sciences, University of Baltimore Email author 
  • , Susan M. HughesAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Albright College
  • , Jack N. LaFayetteAffiliated withInstitutional Research, Albright College

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Research has documented the tendency for individuals to change their voices as a function of different emotional and motivational states, but little attention has been devoted to examining voice modulation in romantic relationships. The present research was conducted to determine (1) the way in which individuals alter their voices when speaking to romantic partners versus friends and (2) if independent raters perceive these differences. Independent raters (N = 80) listened to vocal clips obtained from telephone calls directed toward close same-sex friends and romantic partners. For several clips, raters were able to identify conversational partner (romantic versus friend) with greater than chance accuracy, and this accuracy was positively correlated with vocal pitch and perceived romantic interest. In addition, raters who listened to content-filtered clips judged callers less favorably when talking to their romantic partners than their friends. Results are interpreted in light of the “longing” but vulnerable condition of intense romantic love, and integrated into affection exchange theory and communication accommodation theory.


Voice Affect expression Romantic love Vocal accommodation theory Paralanguage