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Whether it's a promising first date, a job interview, or the start of a new school year, your first impression can make or break it. But, just what influences that all-important snap judgment? We tend to assume that our appearance plays a huge role in how people form opinions about us. But, according to new research from the University of Glasgow, our brains make strong, unconscious judgments about people based on the way they speak.
The study, which was published in March in the journal PLOS One, recorded the voices of 64 Scottish men and women reading the same statement, which included the word “hello.” They then asked 320 (also Scottish) participants to rate each recorded “hello” on 10 personality traits, including “trustworthiness,” “likeability,” and “attractiveness.”
The data showed that most people made similar judgments about the voices they heard. Men with deep voices were rated as "less trustworthy" than other men. The study’s authors attribute this to the difference between male and female voices; the higher the pitch of a man’s voice (closer to that of a woman’s), the less aggressive he seems.
With female voices, however, sounding "trustworthy" depended heavily on whether or not the voice rose or fell at the end of the word “hello.” Essentially, if a woman’s voice ended on a lower pitch, she was overwhelmingly deemed more trustworthy than if her voice rose (seemingly suggesting a question, or uncertainty) at the end of a word.
Of course, the way we communicate and interpret social cues is based heavily on our culture; the way we hear and judge voices could very well be different from the study’s Scottish subjects. At the same time, though, we know that Cher Horowitz-style speech patterns are running rampant here at home. All things considered, it probably couldn’t hurt to watch the uptalk? (NPR)