A more masculine voice — as indicated by a lower voice pitch — may be a signal of unfaithfulness within romantic relationships, according to findings published in Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology. The meta-analysis compiled results from three separate datasets and found that men and women with lower pitch voices were more likely to have cheated on a partner in the past.
Research has shown that people make various social judgments about another person based on that person’s voice pitch. For example, lower voices are judged as more attractive in men and less attractive in women. Notably, voice pitch has also been found to reflect a person’s real characteristics, with lower pitch correlated with being stronger, taller, and having a higher level of testosterone.
Interestingly, some studies even suggest that voice pitch can speak to a person’s faithfulness within romantic relationships, showing that men with lower voices are more likely to have cheated in their past. However, Christoph Schild and his team say that the evidence linking voice pitch to actual cheating behavior is limited and does not include women.
Motivated to address these gaps, Schild and his fellow researchers conducted a meta-analysis using three datasets from previous studies, involving a total of 865 participants (315 men, 550 women). Participants in all datasets had produced multiple voice recordings that were then analyzed according to their fundamental frequency (F0) — a measurement associated with perceived voice pitch. They had also provided self-reports of previous cheating behavior.
Researchers first reanalyzed the three datasets. Among two of the datasets, mean F0 (average voice pitch) did not significantly predict cheating behavior. However, for one of the datasets (Asendorpf et al. 2011), both men and women with lower mean F0 were more likely to report past cheating behavior, and also reported a higher number of sexual partners outside a committed relationship.
Next, a meta-analysis of the three datasets (and additional data from Schild et al. 2020) revealed that lower mean F0 was linked to increased reports of infidelity among men and women. The upper and lower ranges of voice pitch (F0 max and F0 min) and the variability of pitch (monotonicity) were not found to be predictors of infidelity.
A mediation analysis further suggested a potential mechanism in play. Among women, ratings of vocal attractiveness were found to partially explain the link between F0 and likelihood of cheating. The study authors report, “lower mean F0 predicted lower vocal attractiveness, which in turn predicted a higher likelihood of self-reported infidelity.” The same effect was not found for men.
The authors note that a previous study also led by Schild found that women were able to accurately predict a male speaker’s cheating behavior based on the pitch of his voice. This may suggest that fundamental frequency is a cue that women use to judge whether a man is likely to cheat or not, in order to avoid the costs of being involved with an uninvested partner.
Findings from past research might shed light on why men with lower voices appear to be more unfaithful. Among men, lower F0 is linked to greater dominance, greater attractiveness, and a greater number of sexual partners — and a higher number of partners is linked to infidelity.
Alternatively, Schild and colleagues propose that masculinity might play a role in the link between lower voice pitch and infidelity among both men and women. Past research has shown that masculinity is linked to a greater number of sexual partners. It could be that masculine characteristics among either men or women — such as a lower voice — indicate a greater number of romantic partners, and, through this, a higher likelihood of cheating. The researchers say that further studies will be needed to attempt to replicate their findings and to explore additional explanations.
The study, “Voice Pitch – A Valid Indicator of One’s Unfaithfulness in Committed Relationships?”, was authored by Christoph Schild, Julia Stern, Lars Penke, and Ingo Zettler.