The study, published in Biology Letters, offers insight into the evolution of the human voice as well as how we choose our mates.
David Feinberg is an assistant professor in the department of psychology, neuroscience and behavior at McMaster University. In previous studies, he and his colleagues showed that women find deeper male voices more attractive, judging them to be more dominant, older, healthier and more masculine-sounding than those with higher voices. Men, on the other hand, find higher-pitched voices in women more attractive, subordinate, feminine, healthier and younger-sounding.
"While we find in this new study that voice pitch is not related to offspring mortality rates," says Feinberg, "we find that men with low voice pitch have higher reproductive success and more children born to them."
Feinberg and colleague Coren Apicella chose subjects for this study from the Hadza of Tanzania, one of the last true hunter-gatherer cultures. Because the Hadza have no modern birth control, the researchers were able to determine that men who have lower-pitched voices have more children than men with higher-pitched voices.
"If our ancestors went through a similar process", says Feinberg, "this could be one reason why men's and women's voices sound different."