Lowering the pitch of your voice in the first few seconds of an interaction can help you influence others, new research finds.
Those who lowered their voice were also seen as more prestigious and admirable by their peers in the study.
Dr Joey Cheng, the study’s first author, said:
“What excites me about this research is that we now know a little bit more about how humans use their voices to signal status.
In the past, we focused a lot on posture and tended to neglect things like the voice.
But this study clearly shows that there’s something about the voice that’s very interesting and very effective as a channel of dynamically communicating status.”
For the research a group of people were observed while they carried out a group task.
Dr Cheng explained previous findings in her lab:
“In fact, what we’ve found previously is that both of these strategies – prestige and dominance – positively correlate with behavioral influence.
Both are effective pathways to getting there.
But only dominance is about fear and intimidation, and only dominance is related in this study to changes in the pitch of one’s voice.
How you change your voice does not appear to be related to how much respect you win.”
A second experiment had people listening to audio recordings only.
Dr Cheng said:
“They don’t get to see anything or anyone, and they just make judgments about the person in the recordings.
And we found that when the voice in the recording goes down in pitch, people judge the person as wanting to be more influential, more powerful, more intimidating or more domineering.
But they don’t think the person is interested in gaining more respect.
What’s really fascinating about status is that regardless of which groups you look at and what culture and in what context, what inevitably happens is that people divide themselves into leaders and followers, and there’s a hierarchy that’s involved.
Our study adds to the evidence that humans, like many other animals, use their voices to signal and assert dominance over others.”
The study was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General (Cheng et al., 2016).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
Voice image from Shutterstock