Women's voices sound less Mariella and more Marilyn during ovulation

A woman's voice becomes more attractive to both men and women at the point in her monthly cycle when she is at her most fertile, according to a study of vocal changes during ovulation.

If the findings can be replicated, they will add further weight to the theory that women give off subtle and unwitting cues about their fertility as part of an evolutionary battle of the sexes centred on attractiveness and fidelity.

The research also found that men tend to find higher-pitched female voices more attractive: so the idea is that a woman's voice would sound less like Mariella Frostrup and more like Marilyn Monroe at a certain time of the month.

Unlike most mammals, human females show no obvious signs of oestrus – the point when they ovulate and are at their most fertile – but some scientists believe there may be hidden signals that men, and other women, can subconsciously identify.

Nathan Pipitone and Gordon Gallup, of the State University of New York in Albany, investigated vocal attractiveness by recording female volunteers counting from one to 10 at four different points in their menstrual cycle, which they categorised as low to high risk of conception.

They then asked a panel of men and women to listen to the recorded voices and give their unbiased assessment as to whether they sounded attractive or not. Both sexes judged the women's voices to be sexiest when they were recorded at the times during their menstrual cycle when they were at their most fertile.

"The results showed a significant increase in voice attractiveness ratings as the risk of conception increased across the menstrual cycle in naturally cycling women. There was no effect for women using hormonal contraceptives," the scientists said. "More work is needed to identify the biological mechanisms that underlie these perceptual differences, but growing evidence points to the impact of hormones on the larynx as being the source of these changes," they say in the study, to be published in the Journal of Evolution and Human Behaviour.

A separate study by Gregory Bryant and Martie Haselton, of the University of California in Los Angeles, investigates the pitch of 33 women's voices at various points in the menstrual cycle. They found that the women tended to become higher pitched at the most fertile point of the cycle, during ovulation.

Previous work on female voice pitch had established that men tend to find higher-pitched voices more attractive. Taken together, the findings of all three studies suggest that the female voice increases in pitch at the most fertile moment of the monthly cycle.

The fact that men notice differences in vocal attractiveness suggests there is a subtle evolutionary battle of the sexes going on, Dr Gallup told New Scientist magazine. As women evolve ever more efficient ways to conceal fertility, men become increasingly sensitive to the small and subtle changes that take place.

Other scientists have documented changes to body scents, flirtatious behaviour and style of dress that they believe are also used as clues to a woman's fertility status. For instance, Geoffrey Millar, of the University of New Mexico, has shown that lap dancers tend to be given bigger tips by male customers when the women are ovulating. "The voice changes might explain some of the shift in lap dancer tip earnings. Dancers certainly chat with their customers," Dr Millar told New Scientist.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine