Study advises politicians to lower their voices

Politicians with shrill voices should follow Margaret Thatcher’s lead if they want to win votes, research suggests.

The former British Prime Minister famously had elocution lessons to lower her “too feminine” voice and sound more authoritative.

Her instincts were right, according to a new study, as voters really do prefer election candidates with deeper, more masculine voices.

Scientists tested the way people responded to voices by manipulating recordings of past US presidents, creating lower and higher-pitched versions of each one.

The altered recordings were played to volunteers, who were asked to rate their perceptions of the speakers’ attractiveness, leadership potential, honesty, intelligence and dominance.

Participants were also asked which version of the voice they would prefer to vote for, both in peace and wartime. In all cases, there were more positive responses to lower-pitched voices.

The findings were published today in the journal Evolution and Human Behaviour.

Lead researcher Cara Tigue, from McMaster University, based in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, said: “We’re looking at men’s low voice-pitch as a cue to dominance, which is related to leadership.

“Throughout our evolutionary history, it would have been important for our ancestors to pay attention to cues to good leadership because group leaders affected a person’s ability to survive and reproduce within a group.

“We’re looking at it in a present-day, 21st-century context.”

Earlier research that looked at US presidential candidates between 1960 and 2000 found that in all eight elections, the candidate with the lower voice won the popular vote.

Other studies have shown that both men and women find lower-pitched voices more attractive.

But it is dominance that is the key factor when it comes to voting preferences, according to the researchers.

Professor David Feinberg, of McMaster University, who supervised the study, said: “People think we want to vote for men with lower-pitched voices because they’re more attractive, but it’s because people perceive them as better leaders and more dominant, not just because they’re attractive.”

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