The Loh Down On Science

Do women prefer high or low male voices?

Bachelor Number One—say Hello!   Or is it ... Hujambo?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Anthropologist Coren Apicella of Harvard University has studied the Hadza.  This is an isolated African tribe, living much as humans did two hundred thousand years ago.  Meaning men hunt, women gather.

Their limited exposure to the outside means their vocal preferences are untainted by, say, the  sultry tones of a late-night DJ.

Apicella had Hadza women listen to recordings of  male voices that were computer altered to change  pitch. They rated lower-voiced bachelors as better hunters—

Hujambo

Fertile women showed no preference when it came to husband material.  However, breastfeeding women preferred a higher-pitched greeting—

Hujambo!

Why the difference?  Deep voices signal higher testosterone levels.  Better for bringing in the  bacon, but a risky bet for marriage stability.

Nursing moms, whose ability to gather food is  limited, lean toward the more dependable-sounding suitor.

In an earlier study of the Hadza, though, Apicella found that lower-voiced men fathered more children.

But if their higher-voiced brothers stick around camp and help out with the dishes, I'd call that an even trade.

***** For more 90-SECOND SCIENCE FACTS, click here.*****

Thursday, from 2-3 p.m. on the LDOS blog: Sandra chats with author Ashley Merryman about her book (with Po Bronson) Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing.

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

Follow us on Twitter!


blog comments powered by Disqus