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Curr Biol. 2010 Jan 26;20(2):116-20. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2009.11.034.

Vocal attractiveness increases by averaging.

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  • 1Department of Psychology & Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QB, United Kingdom.

Abstract

Vocal attractiveness has a profound influence on listeners-a bias known as the "what sounds beautiful is good" vocal attractiveness stereotype [1]-with tangible impact on a voice owner's success at mating, job applications, and/or elections. The prevailing view holds that attractive voices are those that signal desirable attributes in a potential mate [2-4]-e.g., lower pitch in male voices. However, this account does not explain our preferences in more general social contexts in which voices of both genders are evaluated. Here we show that averaging voices via auditory morphing [5] results in more attractive voices, irrespective of the speaker's or listener's gender. Moreover, we show that this phenomenon is largely explained by two independent by-products of averaging: a smoother voice texture (reduced aperiodicities) and a greater similarity in pitch and timbre with the average of all voices (reduced "distance to mean"). These results provide the first evidence for a phenomenon of vocal attractiveness increases by averaging, analogous to a well-established effect of facial averaging [6, 7]. They highlight prototype-based coding [8] as a central feature of voice perception, emphasizing the similarity in the mechanisms of face and voice perception.

Copyright 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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