A new study points to a surprising way to get ladies to remember things: just talk about them in a low voice. But it has to be a man's voice.
In a recently released study, psychologists recorded men and women saying the names of a variety of different objects (example: "fish"), then manipulated their voices to sound lower or higher. Then they recruited a group of straight women to look at pictures of the objects while listening to the voices. Finally, they performed a recognition test in which the women were shown two similar versions of an object and asked to indicate which version they'd seen previously (ie. a brown fish or a more colorful fish). It turned out that women were significantly better at doing this if they heard artificially lowered male voices naming the objects. Lowering the pitch of female voices had no effect, though. The women also reported that they found the lowered male voices more attractive.
The study authors write that their results "indicate for the first time, so far as we are aware, that signals from the opposite sex important for mate choice affect the accuracy of women's memory." They also argue that low voice is one cue for masculinity, and explain why it might be a good idea for women to have intensified memories around more masculine men:
[B]ecause of the double-edged quality of male masculinity, it might be beneficial for women to treat information about the past behaviour of conspicuously masculine individuals as a decisive factor when judging whether or not they wish to have a relationship. Most notably, perhaps, the ability to recall details associated with particular masculine individuals may lead mate choice either towards or, indeed, away from that individual, depending on what exactly is remembered.
If more "masculine" men are also more aggressive, it might be good for women to remember details about them so they'll be able to tell if a certain dude will be aggressive towards them. Of course, this is a lot of conjecture. At least one study indicates a connection between men's voices and their level of physical aggressiveness, but listening to a man's voice likely isn't a surefire way to predict whether he's dangerous. Still, the new study adds to a growing body of research on how voices affect cognition and behavior. And since research into men's perception of women's voices have long been used as an excuse for men's supposed inability to listen, it's interesting to note that ladies' listening skills may be somewhat selective also.
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