There’s evidence that people are drawn to beautiful appearances, but how about beautiful voices? A study published in Frontiers in Psychology suggests that an attractive voice can help facilitate cooperative decision making.
Attractiveness is a key factor in human interaction and decision making. Physical beauty has been associated with higher quality options in romantic partners and jobs, and even with better luck running for political office. Vocal attractiveness is a less thought of, but also influential factor that can be associated with conscientiousness and agreeableness in work settings.
Previous studies have shown that facial attractiveness and vocal attractiveness are positively correlated. This study sought to explore how voice attractiveness and gender can affect cooperative decision making and attention.
For their study, Junchen Shang and Zhihui Lui utilized 64 participants from a Chinese university. All participants had normal vision and hearing and were healthy. Forty female voice samples and 40 male voice samples were used, with 20 unattractive and 20 attractive voices per gender.
Participants completed a modified trust game where they were given money and had to decide who to cooperate with for a chance to earn more money. The partners were not real and were instead voiced by the attractive or unattractive vocal samples. After deciding what partners to invest in, participants rated the voices on attractiveness. An EEG was also administered.
Results showed that participants were more likely to cooperate with and invest in vocally attractive partners. Though there was no significant gender difference generally, participants favored female unattractive voices over male unattractive voices.
The EEG results showed that in the N1 processing stage, participants showed larger amplitudes when listening to attractive male voices. Female voices induced larger P2 and P3 amplitudes. Vocal attractiveness for both genders was processed at the P3 stage, which shows that processing attractive voices requires attention.
“This study indicated that elaborated cognitive processing of voice gender and vocal attractiveness occurred in the late stage in order to prepare for whether to invest or not,” the researchers said.
This study took steps into better understanding the impact of vocal attractiveness. Despite this, there are limitations to note. One such limitation is that each decision task is dichotomous and had low stakes. Future research could include a variety of stakes and investment amounts to better understand the role the vocal attractiveness had.
The study, “Vocal Attractiveness Matters: Social Preferences in Cooperative Behavior“, was authored by Junchen Shang and Zhihui Lui.