DR Feinberg, BC Jones, LM DeBruine, MJ Law Smith, RE Cornwell, SG Hillier & DI Perrett (2006). Maintenance of vocal sexual dimorphism: adaptive selection against androgyny. Human Behavior and Evolution Society in Philadelphia, PA USA. June 2006.

Most studies investigating possible evolutionary explanations for sexual dimorphism in human voices tend to focus on female attraction to and dominance ratings of testosterone mediated male vocal characteristics such as low fundamental frequency (pitch) and small formant dispersion (indicative of large supralaryngeal vocal-tracts, and large body size). We show that among young women, high voice pitch and formant dispersion positively and independently predict late-follicular urinary estrogen metabolite levels, independently of age. We also show that men of a wide age range prefer women’s voices manipulated independently to have raised pitch and increased formant dispersion to the same voices with lowered pitch and decreased formant dispersion. These findings in addition to previous work demonstrating female preferences for low pitch and assortative preferences for apparent vocal-tract length in men’s voices suggest that the degree of sexual dimorphism in voice pitch and formant dispersion are maintained via selection against androgyny in both sexes.

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