Vocal modulation in human mating and competition

Susan M. Hughes, David A. Puts

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The human voice is dynamic, and people modulate their voices across different social interactions. This article presents a review of the literature examining natural vocal modulation in social contexts relevant to human mating and intrasexual competition. Altering acoustic parameters during speech, particularly pitch, in response to mating and competitive contexts can influence social perception and indicate certain qualities of the speaker. For instance, a lowered voice pitch is often used to exert dominance, display status and compete with rivals. Changes in voice can also serve as a salient medium for signalling a person's attraction to another, and there is evidence to support the notion that attraction and/or romantic interest can be distinguished through vocal tones alone. Individuals can purposely change their vocal behaviour in attempt to sound more attractive and to facilitate courtship success. Several findings also point to the effectiveness of vocal change as a mechanism for communicating relationship status. As future studies continue to explore vocal modulation in the arena of human mating, we will gain a better understanding of how and why vocal modulation varies across social contexts and its impact on receiver psychology. This article is part of the theme issue 'Voice modulation: from origin and mechanism to social impact (Part I)'.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20200388
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1840
StatePublished - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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