Speaking like a Man: Women’s Pitch as a Cue for Gender Stereotyping
Women’s average voice pitch has decreased in recent years, reducing the gap between men on this vocal dimension. The present study examined whether a woman speaking at a lower pitch would be perceived as less feminine and more masculine than a woman speaking at a higher pitch. Participants (n = 100, 67 female) listened to an audiotape of a woman in which her natural voice was manipulated to represent a pitch of either 220 Hz or 165 Hz. They then rated her on positive and negative facets of masculinity and femininity as well as competence and likeability. In addition, participants’ gendered self-concept was measured to examine potential moderator effects. As predicted, positive masculinity ratings were significantly higher, and positive and negative femininity ratings were significantly lower, in the 165 Hz than in the 220 Hz condition. The woman was also rated as more likeable in the 220 Hz than in the 165 Hz condition. No difference was found for negative masculinity and competence ratings, and no moderation effect of participants’ gendered self-concept emerged. The findings suggest that lower voice pitch is a masculinity cue that elicits stereotyped perceptions of female speakers and may have implications for impression formation in a variety of domains.
KeywordsGender stereotypes Voice pitch Masculinity Femininity Likeability
Compliance with Ethical Standards
The study was conducted in compliance with the regulations of the Institutional Review Board of the authors’ university.
- Berg, M., Fuchs, M., Wirkner, K., Loeffler, M., Engel, C., & Berger, T. (2017). The speaking voice in the general population: Normative data and associations to sociodemographic and lifestyle factors. Journal of Voice, 31, e13–e257. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvoice.2016.06.001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Braun, A. (1994). Sprechstimmlage und Muttersprache [Voice pitch and mother tongue]. Zeitschrift für Dialektologische Linguistik, 61, 170–178.Google Scholar
- Capranica, L., Piacentini, M. F., Halson, S., Myburgh, K. H., Ogasawara, E., & Millard-Stafford, M. (2013). The gender gap in sport performance: Equity influences equality. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 8, 99–103. https://doi.org/10.1123/ijspp.8.1.99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Hyde, J. S. (2014). Gender similarities and differences. Annual Review of Psychology, 65, 373–398. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-psych-010213-115057.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Ko, S. J., Judd, C. M., & Stapel, D. A. (2009). Stereotyping based on voice in the presence of individuating information: Vocal femininity affects perceived competence but not warmth. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 198–211. https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167208326477.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Traunmüller, H., & Eriksson, A. (1995). The frequency range of the voice fundamental in the speech of male and female adults. Unpublished manuscript. Retrieved March 21 2019, from http://www.ling.su.se/staff/hartmut/f0_m&f.pdf.
- Zimman, L. (2018). Transgender voices: Insights on identity, embodiment, and the gender of the voice. Language and Linguistics Compass. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1111/lnc3.12284.