Strong voices = strong bodies?

Strong statueWe size people up—often unconsciously—using a myriad of factors: Clothing, handshake, grooming, and so on. Sometimes our conclusions can be wildly incorrect, but sometimes, some of our snap judgments are remarkably good. And what we call intuition is probably based on information we’re not even aware that we’re processing.

It turns out that people are good at judging how strong a man is based on his voice.

A team led by Aaron Sell at the University of California, Santa Barbara, recorded the voices of more than 200 men from the US, Argentina, Bolivia and Romania, who all repeated a short phrase in their native tongue. Sell’s team also put the men through a battery of tests of upper body strength.

When university students listened to the recordings, they accurately predicted the strength of the men, based on a seven-point scale from “weak” to “strong” – regardless of the language used. The voice analysis provided just as much information about a speaker’s strength as photographs.

What aspects of voice we link with strength remain unknown, since there was no correlation between a man’s strength and the pitch or timbre of his voice.

Perhaps the next step in this research would be to perform before and after voice analysis of men beginning a weight training regime, to try to isolate what vocal qualities have changed.

Image credit: Andrew Beierle/Stock.xchng

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