A modulatory effect of male voice pitch on long-term memory in women: Evidence of adaptation for mate choice?

David Stuart Smith, Benedict Christopher Jones, David R. Feinberg, Kevin Allan

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


Human memory may be attuned to information that is of adaptive value (i.e., that promotes survival or reproductive fitness). While several recent studies have presented good evidence that memory is particularly sensitive to survival-related information, the possibility that memory may also be particularly sensitive to mate choice-relevant information has received less attention. Consequently, we investigated whether memory in women is sensitive to men’s voice pitch, a sexually dimorphic cue that is important for mate choice. We hypothesized that women’s memory may be biased by the presence of cues of masculinity. Computer transformation techniques were used to raise or lower voice pitch in recordings of four male and four female speakers who spoke the names of a set of objects. These recordings were first played to a group of young adult women as they viewed images of these objects. Next, these women’s memory for the objects was tested by asking them to discriminate the studied objects from similar, but unstudied, objects. Object memory was significantly better for objects whose names were spoken by masculinized (i.e. lowered pitch) men’s voices than when they were spoken by feminized (i.e. raised pitch) men’s voices. No analogous effects were found when women listened to other women’s voices. These data provide new evidence of a functional specialization within women’s memory that could function to promote the retention of information associated with men who display cues of attractiveness, dominance and, potentially, long-term health.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2011
EventHuman Behaviour and Evolution Society - Montpellier, France
Duration: 29 Jun 20113 Jul 2011


ConferenceHuman Behaviour and Evolution Society


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