Researchers at McMaster University have found that voters prefer to choose candidates with lower pitched voices.
The teams of researchers from the school’s Department of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behavior have found that study subjects were more inclined to vote for men with lower-pitched voices, which suggests that old fashioned perceptions may still be an influence over the way we choose our leaders.
"We're looking at men's low voice-pitch as a cue to dominance, which is related to leadership," says graduate student Cara Tigue, lead author of the paper, published in Evolution and Human Behavior.
"Throughout our evolutionary history, it would have been important for our ancestors to pay attention to cues to good leadership, because group leaders affected a person's ability to survive and reproduce within a group. We're looking at it in a present-day, 21st-century context."
Researchers took archival recordings of US presidents and created lower and higher pitched versions of each voice.
They then played the recordings for the subjects and asked them to rate their perceptions of the speakers “attractiveness, leadership potential, honesty, intelligence, and dominance.”
The team also asked the subjects which version of the voice they would prefer to vote for, both in peacetime and wartime, the authors explained.
Though the motivations were different, in all cases they preferred candidates with lower-pitched voices, said the authors.
Although voice pitch is not the only influence a candidate has on voters, researchers say their study shows that it is clearly part of the decision making process.
"One of the implications of our research is that voters may take it into account when making voting decisions," says Tigue.
Earlier studies have shown that US presidential candidates between 1960 and 2000 found that the candidate with the lower voice won the popular vote in all eight elections, while other studies show that both men and women find lower pitched voices more attractive.
But the study that voters prefer men with lower pitched voices is the first of its kind and researchers say that future studies will look at perceptions of Canadian politicians and female politicians.
Although subjects considered men with low pitched voices to be more attractive and more dominant the researchers have shown that it’s the perception of dominance that has a greater influence on voting decisions.
"People think we want to vote for men with lower-pitched voices because they're more attractive," says David Feinberg, the McMaster psychology professor who supervised the research, "but it's because people perceive them as better leaders and more dominant, not just because they're attractive."