Voice Correlates of Mating Success in Men: Examining “Contests” Versus “Mate Choice” Modes of Sexual Selection
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 (F0), and the outcomes and indicators of sexual success with women. The present study investigated the role of another vocal parameter, F0 variation (the within-subject SD in F0 across the utterance, F0-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: F0-SD, mean F0, intensity, duration, and formant dispersion (Df, 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 F0-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 F0 and Df 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.