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Updated 03 October 2014

Your voice carries sexual cues

Women prefer deep voices, and men are attracted to high-pitched, breathy tones.

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Men with deep voices and women with high voices are judged more attractive by listeners of the opposite sex, because they estimate the speaker's body size by their voice, a new study shows.

Men in the study preferred recordings of women's voices with features that indicated a smaller body size, such as high pitch and breathy sound. Women preferred men's voices with low pitch and other features that indicated a large body size.

But women also liked men's voices that were breathy, which presumably softened the aggressiveness typically associated with a larger body size, according to Yi Xu, from University College London in the United Kingdom, and colleagues.

Previous studies of animals and birds found that listeners can perceive a caller's body size and intention based on voice features. For example, low-frequency growls are more likely to indicate a larger body size, dominance or a potential attack, while higher frequency sounds suggest smaller body size, fear and submissiveness.

The new study shows that, despite the development of complex language, human vocal interactions still use certain animal instincts, the researchers said.

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