Mating context and menstrual phase affect women's preferences for male voice pitch

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Fundamental frequency (F0) is the vocal acoustic parameter closest to what we perceive as pitch. Men speak at a lower F0 than do women, even controlling for body size. Although the developmental and anatomical reasons for this sex difference are known, the evolutionary reasons are not. By examining fertility-related variation in women's preferences for men's voices, the present study tests the hypothesis that female choice for good genes influenced the evolution of male voice pitch (VP). Unlike previous correlational studies that did not consider the effects of menstrual phase and mating context on women's preferences for male VP, the present study includes these variables and utilizes experimental pitch (P) manipulations. Results indicate that low VP is preferred mainly in short-term mating contexts rather than in long-term, committed ones, and this mating context effect is greatest when women are in the fertile phase of their ovulatory cycles. Moreover, lower male F0 correlated with higher self-reported mating success. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that an association between low male VP and heritable fitness led to the evolution of the observed patterns in women's P preferences and men's mating success and that these patterns influenced the evolution of low VP in men. However, alternative explanations are considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)388-397
Number of pages10
JournalEvolution and Human Behavior
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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