Friday, June 17, 2016

Vocal signals reveal intent to dominate or submit, study finds

Public Release: 18-Apr-2016
Vocal signals reveal intent to dominate or submit, study finds
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

You may not win friends, but a new study finds that you can influence people simply by lowering the pitch of your voice in the first moments of a conversation.

The study, reported in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, found that people whose voices went down in pitch early on in an interaction were more likely to be seen as dominant and influential than those whose vocal pitch went up early in conversation. Those viewed as dominant also were more likely to convince others to go along with their ideas than those seen as less dominant.

In another report based on the same data, the researchers found that dominant participants were not considered more prestigious, esteemed or admirable by their peers, however. Those judged to be admirable - but not dominant - also tended to excel at influencing others, the researchers found.


The study participants and outsiders viewing their interactions tended to rate those whose voices deepened between their first and third utterances as more dominant and influential than participants whose voices went up in pitch. None of the subjects or the outside observers was aware that the study focused on the relationship between vocal cues and status.

Those viewed as dominant and those viewed as prestigious were most influential in the group interactions, Cheng said.

"In fact, what we've found previously is that both of these strategies - prestige and dominance - positively correlate with behavioral influence," she said. "Both are effective pathways to getting there. But only dominance is about fear and intimidation, and only dominance is related in this study to changes in the pitch of one's voice. How you change your voice does not appear to be related to how much respect you win."


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