Our tone of voice is one of the most powerful communicators. It can reveal confidence, fragility, anger, or sorrow with slight tonal changes alone. Someone's tone of voice can provide insight into not only their personality and demeanor, but their values as well, though that last one we pick up without even realizing it.
Recent studies show that people are capable of picking up on subconscious, unidentifiable signals in strangers' voices, and can use those signals to accurate predict immoral behaviors.
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Someone's voice can give away far more than they want to believe (or far more than they're hoping will ever get out about them). Vocal tone can be a clear giveaway for things like lying and deception or positive things like excitement and surprise. Did you know that our voices can even be used to judge some really wild things like someone's attractiveness or fertility?
You could even use someone's voice to judge their likelihood of cheating.
What Their Voice Hides
A study has proven that yes, someone's voice can be a direct sign of their cheating potential or can give away if they've cheated already. This means if you're getting a bad feeling about someone you're seeing and thinking they might have been unfaithful, there just might be a reason for it.
The study recruited 64 male and 88 female undergraduate students who were asked to listen to 10 female voices and 10 male voices each. Five of the people behind the voices in each group admitted that they had cheated on a partner before before being recorded.
Participants were given no information regarding the voices they heard, only able to judge them off the audio alone. After listening to the clip, they had to rate whether or not they believed the person with that voice had ever cheated before.
Even with just short clips and no other basis to go off of, participants were widely able to guess who had cheated and who hadn't—with women being better at it than men.
No Audible Link
Despite the listeners' accuracy, researchers were still unable to pin down exactly what it is that causes people to pick up on cheating cues.
"We were unable to identify exactly which acoustic qualities were driving the perception of cheating ascriptions," wrote one of the authors of the study. "It is interesting, then, to speculate what aspects of the human voice raters were using to make these accurate assessments because we eliminated differences between groups for the more conspicuous cues of a voice that could be driving factors."
Memories Of The Past
That doesn't mean they weren't without their guesses, though.
One belief is that the participants heard similar traits in some voices that matched those of their previous partners who cheated on them. This would mean cheaters speak in a similar way, but the exact traits that connect them are still lost.
There is also a 2011 study that found that women believe men with deeper voices are more likely to cheat, so the pitch could have a role to play too. In this more recent study, the voices were pitch-shifted to avoid these same conclusions.
Despite their assumed proclivity for cheating, another study found that women prefer men with deeper voices anyway, especially right before they start ovulating. It was assumed that this is a purely biological reaction, as deeper voices have been linked to producing healthier children. In return, men find women's voices most attractive also while those women are ovulating.
This proves that there are some innate, instinctual reactions related to someone's tone of voice, meaning there could be an unknown trigger in our brains that evolved with us that signals if someone is more likely to cheat.
Before cheating comes interest, something else humans can distinguish with their voices. Another study proved that just by speaking, others could pick up on whether or not you're into them.
When speaking to people they find attractive, men's voices reach a deeper pitch. Both men and women also increase their variety in their pitch as to sound more dynamic, less monotone. Thankfully, we can listen out for these cues instead of leaving it up to our biological signal detectors to pick it up for us.
A Way With Words
All this proof that our voices give away much more than we can even begin to intend is fascinating for some, but maybe scary for others who have some skeletons they want to keep hidden away in closets.
As the initial cheating study report reads, "These findings expand upon the idea that the human voice may be of value as a cheater detection tool. Very thin slices of vocal information are all that is needed to make certain assessments about others."
To Give And Receive
These lessons are all important to keep in mind when speaking to someone, especially so if this is a new person in you're life. Though it's not fair to make a laundry list of baseless assumptions off someone's voice alone, if you can covertly pick up on the subconscious cues they're giving you, you might be able to learn a lot more about that person without them saying anything about themselves.
It's also important to remember that whoever you're talking to might be doing the exact same thing to you. When judging others, you're never free from judgement yourself, so be careful with what you're putting out into the world.
In any relationship, always take stock of your feelings and ask yourself: does this person make you love yourself more? Do you want to grow old with them?
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