Susanne Röder, Bernhard Fink, David Feinberg and Nick Neave

Facial visualizations of women's voices suggest a cross-modality preference for femininity

Evolutionary Psychology

Women with higher-pitched voices and more feminine facial features are commonly judged as being more attractive than are women with lower-pitched voices and less feminine faces, possibly because both features are affected by (age-related) variations in endocrine status. These results are primarily derived from investigations of perceptions of variations in single-modality stimuli (i.e., faces or voices) in samples of young adult women. In the present study we sought to test whether male and female perceptions of women's voices affect visual representations of facial femininity. Eighty men and women judged voice recordings of 10 young girls (11–15 years), 10 adult women (19–28 years) and 10 peri-/post-menopausal women (50–64 years) on age, attractiveness, and femininity. Another 80 men and women were asked to indicate the face they think each voice corresponded to using a video that gradually changed from a masculine looking male face into a feminine looking female face. Both male and female participants perceived voices of young girls and adult women to be significantly younger, more attractive and feminine than those of peri-/post-menopausal women. Hearing young girls' and adult women's voices resulted in both men and women selecting faces that differed markedly in apparent femininity from those associated with peri-/post-menopausal women's voices. Voices of young girls had the strongest effect on visualizations of facial femininity. Our results suggest a cross-modal preference for women's vocal and facial femininity, which depends on female age and is independent of the perceiver's sex.