Wow now that does not sound terribly ground-breaking… did you know you can use your voice to command respect? Of course, you did. But here is something interesting, did you know it has less to do with raising your voice and perhaps yelling; but rather more to do with lowering the pitch of your voice within first few seconds of an interaction that commands the most authority…
Joint research by University of Illinios and University of British Columbia, conducted by Drs Joey T. Cheung, Jessica L. Tracey, Simon Ho, and Joseph Heinrich titled ‘Listen, Follow Me” Dynamic Vocals Signals of Dominance Predict Emergent Social Rank in Humans’ found that those who lowered their voice tended to be viewed as with greater prestige and holding more admirable qualities then their peers.
So what does this mean?
As outlined by Dr Cheung “What excites me about this research is that we now know a little bit more about how humans use their voices to signal status. In the past, we focused a lot on posture and tended to neglect things like the voice. But this study clearly shows that there’s something about the voice that’s very interesting and very effective as a channel of dynamically communicating status.”
The researchers undertook the study by observing groups of people undertaking challenging tasks witnessing how certain parties gained respect within the group noting the pitch of their voice. A second phase of the research had a group listen to audio recordings only with no visual of who is speaking or what they are doing. This second phase of the research presented interesting results with participants clearly judging an individual whose pitch lowered as wanting to be more influential, more powerful, more intimidating or more domineering. But further to this they did not indicate that the person who was speaking with lower pitch was necessarily interested in gaining more respect by what they were saying.
What can we learn from this?
We already know from previous group observational studies that regardless of the purpose of a group or what cultural bias it may hold, and in what context the group is gathering – what inevitably happens is that people divide themselves into leaders and followers, and there’s a group or peer appointed hierarchy that evolves. This study provides the evidence that humans, like many other animals, use their voices to signal and assert dominance over others in that group.
Simple vocal shifts are presenting as the unidentified reason peers instinctively appoint leadership responsibility to others. Results from group observation process demonstrate that in the context of face-to-face group interactions, individuals spontaneously alter their vocal pitch in a manner consistent with rank signalling. Raising one’s pitch early during an interaction predicted lower emergent rank, whereas deepening one’s pitch predicted higher emergent rank. Results from the process of listening only to audio, provide causal evidence that these vocal shifts influence perceptions of rank and formidability. Together, findings suggest that humans use transient vocal changes to track, signal, and coordinate status relationships. [Cited: Journal of Experimental Psychology General 2016, Vol 145, No. 5, 536-547]