A deep voice is often thought of as a masculine quality that appeals to straight women, but according to a new study, the characteristic's evolution had more to do with how men come off to each other. The research found that the deepness of men's voices doesn't affect men's attractiveness as much as their perceived dominance.
For the first part of the study, the researchers compared the vocalizations of different primates to see if the pitch of male voices correlated with mating behaviors. It turned out there was a greater difference in pitch between males and females for species that were polygynous, meaning that males have multiple mates, since male competition tends to be fiercer for them. Humans are considered somewhat polygynous.
This would suggest that voice plays a role in sexual behavior—but it's not the type of role you might expect. Rather than influencing sexual attraction, the authors wondered if male voices might instead make them more intimidating competitors to other men. To test this theory, they had men and women rate how attractive and how dominant different voices seemed based on recordings. The pitch of the female voice didn't affect ratings, but the deeper male voices were considered more dominant and only slightly more attractive.
Lead author David A. Puts said in a press release that the traits evolution selects aren't always the ones considered most attractive. "We find that masculine traits in humans are not the same as, say, in peacocks where the beautiful tail attracts a mate," he said. "For example, beards make men more dominant looking, scarier, and seemingly more dangerous, but most women prefer clean-shaven men."
Puts explained to Complex over email that a very deep voice could actually be a negative trait in the dating market. "Women tend to prefer a voice that is a bit deeper than the male average more than they prefer high or very low voices," he said.
So, lowering your voice might not win your love interest over, but it could scare away your competition.
UPDATED 9:43 a.m. ET: This story was updated to include comment from David A. Puts.