People Judge Intelligence By The Sound Of Your Voice, Not Written Word

voice
If you want strangers to think you're intelligent, you may need to speak up. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Intelligence cannot be directly observed, but yet we still judge how smart someone may be within moments of meeting. While you may think the best way to make a good impression is through witty, enthralling speech, a recent study has found evidence to suggest your intelligence is best conveyed not in what you say but in how you say it.

For the study, which is currently published in the Journal Psychological Science, a team of researchers from the University of Chicago videotaped MBA students while they were giving pitches. They then had prospective employers or professional recruiters either watch the video, listen to an audio of the speech, or simply read a transcript. Results showed the voice of the students had the biggest influence in whether or not they were hired, and adding video to the audio did not at all affect the students' evaluations.

“What they show is that your intelligence is not necessarily something I can see on your body, but I think it’s a cue that we can pick up or hear in your voice,” explained Nicholas Epley, one of the researchers involved in the study, as reported by Time.

Epley recommends that we can use this data to our benefit, especially when it comes to trying to win over the favor of others and make a good first impression. According to Epley, although most of us may not want to speak out for the fear of appearing stupid, it’s actually the opposite that rings true. He recommends that in contexts such as a job interview, if you ever have the opportunity to speak to someone directly, take it.

“For conveying one’s intellect, it is important that one’s voice, quite literally, be heard,” the authors wrote.

This link between perceived intelligence and vocal pitch may have even bigger implications in how we understand human social interactions, especially in the new online setting.

Thanks to advances in technology, more and more human interactions take place in written form rather than verbal. That lack of verbal interaction has disturbed natural ways in which we socialize and has made it harder to judge the intelligence level of strangers. It may also explain why we treat strangers online differently than we do in person.

“I don’t think it’s any accident that people online seem to treat each other as mindless idiots,” Epley said.

Source: Scroader J, Epley N. The Sound of Intellect Speech Reveals a Thoughtful Mind, Increasing a Job Candidate’s Appeal. Psychological Science. 2015.

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