How do you know if the speaker is a male or female? Most people would answer by the pitch of a speaker’s voice. Now, study suggests that there may be another way to do this. According to a researcher from the University of Colorado Boulder, a person’s style of speech may help a listener to perceive the gender of the speaker.
People often think of gender differences in the voice primarily as a biological difference; therefore, the research looks at potential for other factors other than how testosterone lowers the voice.
As part of the process of transitioning from female to male, participants in the research were treated with the hormone testosterone which cause a number of physical changes, including the lowering of a person’s voice. The researcher recorded the voices of 15 transgender men. Software was used to determine the frequency of the “s” sounds each participant made. In order to look at how the “s” sounds affected perception, the recording of each participant’s voice recording was digitally manipulated. A group of 10 listeners identified the gender of the speaker.
The findings from the research were quite fascinating. The way people pronounce their “s” sounds and the amount of resonance they use when speaking brings about the perception of gender. A voice could have a higher pitch and still be perceived as male if the speaker pronounced “s” sounds in a lower frequency by moving the tongue farther away from the teeth.
Generally, a high frequency ‘s’ has been stereotypically associated with women’s speech, but interestingly, this research shows a voice as more masculine or more feminine are influenced by speech traits that are socially not biologically driven.
Next time you talk to someone, you may try listening to how a speaker pronounce the ‘s’ and see for yourself if there’s a difference between a female and a male speaker.