Voice Correlates of Mating Success in Men: Examining “Contests” Versus “Mate Choice” Modes of Sexual Selection
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Men’s copulatory success can often be predicted by measuring traits involved in male contests and female choice. Previous research has demonstrated relationships between one such vocal trait in men, mean fundamental frequency (F 0), and the outcomes and indicators of sexual success with women. The present study investigated the role of another vocal parameter, F 0 variation (the within-subject SD in F 0 across the utterance, F 0-SD), in predicting men’s reported number of female sexual partners in the last year. Male participants (N = 111) competed with another man for a date with a woman. Recorded interactions with the competitor (“competitive recording”) and the woman (“courtship recording”) were analyzed for five non-linguistic vocal parameters: F 0-SD, mean F 0, intensity, duration, and formant dispersion (D f , an acoustic correlate of vocal tract length), as well as dominant and attractive linguistic content. After controlling for age and attitudes toward uncommitted sex (SOI), lower F 0-SD (i.e., a more monotone voice) and more dominant linguistic content were strong predictors of the number of past-year sexual partners, whereas mean F 0 and D f did not significantly predict past-year partners. These contrasts have implications for the relative importance of male contests and female choice in shaping men’s mating success and hence the origins and maintenance of sexually dimorphic traits in humans.
KeywordsDominance Formant dispersion Fundamental frequency Mate choice Mating success Voice pitch
We would like to thank Lisa Brevard, Christina Jerzyk, Jerome Lee, Rebecca Prosser, John Putz, Melinda Putz, and Linda Snyder for their conscientious assistance in study preparation and data collection; Julio Gonzalez and Drew Rendall for their advice on measuring formant frequencies; Kittie Verdolini for providing research support; and the Editor and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions regarding this article.
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