Linking human male vocal parameters to perceptions, body morphology, strength and hormonal profiles in contexts of sexual selection

Christoph Schild, Toe Aung, Tobias L. Kordsmeyer, Rodrigo A. Cardenas, David A. Puts, Lars Penke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Sexual selection appears to have shaped the acoustic signals of diverse species, including humans. Deep, resonant vocalizations in particular may function in attracting mates and/or intimidating same-sex competitors. Evidence for these adaptive functions in human males derives predominantly from perception studies in which vocal acoustic parameters were manipulated using specialist software. This approach affords tight experimental control but provides little ecological validity, especially when the target acoustic parameters vary naturally with other parameters. Furthermore, such experimental studies provide no information about what acoustic variables indicate about the speaker—that is, why attention to vocal cues may be favored in intrasexual and intersexual contexts. Using voice recordings with high ecological validity from 160 male speakers and biomarkers of condition, including baseline cortisol and testosterone levels, body morphology and strength, we tested a series of pre-registered hypotheses relating to both perceptions and underlying condition of the speaker. We found negative curvilinear and negative linear relationships between male fundamental frequency (fo) and female perceptions of attractiveness and male perceptions of dominance. In addition, cortisol and testosterone negatively interacted in predicting fo, and strength and measures of body size negatively predicted formant frequencies (Pf). Meta-analyses of the present results and those from two previous samples confirmed that fonegatively predicted testosterone only among men with lower cortisol levels. This research offers empirical evidence of possible evolutionary functions for attention to men’s vocal characteristics in contexts of sexual selection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number21296
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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