The soft and sultry voice of a woman holds allure around the world, as new research describes innate talents in men and women in attracting mating partners.

Among findings from researchers at Albright College is confirmation that women — but not men — are able to modulate their voices for a desirous tone men find sexually attractive. In a study of 20 men and 20 women, psychology professor Susan Hughes says both sexes were able to manipulate their voices to sound smarter, but that women were unable to match the men’s ability to project greater confidence at will.

However, women have little trouble modifying their vocality by lowering pitch and speaking with a bit more hoarseness. "This ability may be due to culture and cuts across cultures and time," Hughes said in a university news release. "There is a stereotype of what is a sexual voice in our culture — a low, breathy voice."

The findings were described in the article “The Perception and Parameters of Intentional Voice Manipulation” published on Sunday in the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior.

Hughes and her research team examined the effects of intentional voice modification by men and women intending to project enhanced versions of sexually attractive traits, such as general sexiness, dominance, intelligence, and confidence. As beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, so too does one’s chances to mate well in the human race, a never-ending series of adaptations. Those efforts by the 40 study participants to modify their voices were then assessed by a second group of 40 volunteers.

Although women appeared innately suited to the task, men failed to convincingly alter their voices to project a sexier presence. "In fact, although not significantly, it got a bit worse when men tried to sound sexy," Hughes said.

But why? The researchers say inherent sexual differences in mating selection require a different set of talents from a woman. Aware that men see physical beauty as a primary quality in a potential mate, women might have developed the ability to project a vocal sexiness that is often predictive of physical beauty, and intimidates any rivals within earshot.

Analysis of the voice samples using spectrogram showed that both men and women slowed their speech to sound sexier, while women also lowered pitch and spoke with more hoarseness. Interestingly, there diverges how men and women perceive sexy — or maybe it’s the medium that’s the message, as communications theorist Marshall McLuhan once said. Whereas men find a woman’s higher pitch more attractive, women tend to drop their voices to signal desire.

Interestingly, Hughes and her team also found that men and women alike can manipulate their voices to sound more dominant, a skill useful to women in the modern co-ed workplace.

Source: Hughes, Susan, Mogilski, Justin, Harrison, Marissa. The Perception and Parameters of Intentional Voice Manipulation. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior. 2014