We often say that we can understand the nature of someone as soon as we hear him or her speak. Indeed, according to a new study published in the online resource «PLoS One», something like that can be true, since it takes less than a second to figure out one’s personality traits based only on their voice.

It is known that the voice transmits sensory signals that betray one’s gender, age, and even the physical condition or certain personality traits.

Dr. Phil McAleer and his colleagues from the University of Glasgow decided to find out if we can get an immediate impression by a person’s voice.

The voice experiment

In order to find an answer to their question, the researchers recorded 64 people reading a text. Then they isolated the word ‘hello‘.

It was used during the next phase of the experiment, when 320 people were asked to listen to this recording and rate the voices they heard on a scale from 1 to 9 concerning 10 different personality traits, including reliability, dominance, and attractiveness.

We were surprised by how similar the answers of the 320 volunteers were,” noted Dr. McAleer. “On a scale in which 0 corresponded to the lack of a personality trait and 1 – to the full association with this trait, the final score for all the 10 traits reached 0.92, which means that most volunteers agreed to a large extent on how each voice represented each personality trait.”

Evolutionary explanation

It makes sense why the decisions about one’s personality are taken so quickly, notes Dr. McAleer.

There’s an evolutionary explanation for this: we all want to know quickly whether we can trust someone in order to decide if we should approach them, or rather run away. It would be a big waste of time if we were taking too long to come to this conclusion.”

The impression we make on others through our voice seems to be defined by different factors: for example, the tone of the voice affects how reliable the person shows.

A person who raises their voice seems more reliable,” says Dr. McAleer.

‘Manageable’ aspects of voice

In accordance with the researcher, it is possible to change some aspects of our voice.

There is a rumor that Margaret Thatcher and Queen Elizabeth were trained to make their voices sound more dominant.”

However, some other aspects of one’s voice are less “manageable”. For example, the shape of the vocal tract significantly affects how dominant the voice sounds.

The research team hopes that the results of the study can be used to create an artificial voice that could help people who lost their own due to a medical problem and make the voices of navigation systems and robots more attractive.

“It may also be used by companies in choosing the best candidate for certain job positions. For example, no one would want a call center employee with a voice that shows unreliability,” concludes Dr. McAleer.

Published in Helios Plus on March 19, 2014

Copyright © 2012-2024 Learning Mind. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint, contact us.

power of misfits book banner mobile

Like what you are reading? Subscribe to our newsletter to make sure you don’t miss new thought-provoking articles!

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Otto Bhan

    Bang on Anna,

    Wouldn’t we love to hear your voice, please and thank you. How about some talk with laughter too, so we may see the brilliant smile, por favore.

  2. Jules Youngberg

    Voice is a very interesting thing. I recently read an article stating that voice was the biggest factor in how attracted we are to someone. Hearing someone’s voice definitely immediately gives me an idea of what the person is like.

  3. Teagan Rogers

    I love how interesting this sounds, (no pun intended) and the way we perceive some people differently than others is a science that should be expanded.

  4. Shan Hartley

    I agree to a greatness of your probability. How people speak, mannerisms, eye contact, and movement tell me quite a bit about a person rapidly. I do have to question the comment on the article that he read, similar to the one you published. I find that the voice isn’t the main factor or even a close factor to a sexual or friendly interaction with another. I love my mother in law to pieces! She has an odd accent, nasally voice and high pitched when she gets excited. At first it was like nails on a chalkboard to my ears. (not joking!) I never judged her by her voice, it was her heart and passion in minutes that got me. Same with my wife, whom looks rather manly, (tattoos , muscular, and such) Again, she has her mother’s voice. Which through me way off, when she spoke the first time. Her smile, her eyes lit up, full of life, the energy she was illuminating was intense. That’s what won my heart! Just my opinion. Not, countering you on the subject. My life and past on this topic. Thanks for all you do!

  5. WorkingClass

    . “It may also be used by companies in choosing the best candidate for certain job positions. For example, no one would want a call center employee with a voice that shows unreliability,” concludes Dr. McAleer.

    Just great! Now minimum wage jobs are going to be screening for the right voices. That is a horrible use of research. How about screening all public servants for honesty and ethics?

Leave a Reply