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The chance of winning an elected office is higher usually for individuals with a lower-pitched voice, a new study said. Human behavior experts explain that the perceived lowness or highness of a person’s voice pitch influences how people are judged on a variety of dimensions such as physical strength, attractiveness, and social dominance.
However, it is another matter if there is a correlation between voice pitch and leadership ability, Rindy Anderson, an assistant professor at the Florida Atlantic University’s Department of Biological Sciences, Casey Klofstad, an associate professor at the University of Miami’s Department of Political Science, said. The two held an observational study and an experimental study, Science Daily reported.
To test if members of the US Congress with lower-pitched voices are more effective leaders, Anderson and Klofstad conducted the observational study. They correlated a measure of the voice pitch of Congress with a measure of their leadership ability.
They based the data they used to rest the prediction on a power ranking of the members of the 109th US Congress created by Knowlegis. The prediction of Klofstad and Anderson was that if the voice pitch contains information about leadership ability, individuals with lower-pitched voices would show evidence of being more effective elected officials.
For the experimental study, the two researchers required the participants to respond to persuasive political policy statements. Among the statements were: “You should support stronger gun control laws,” “You should support deportation of illegal immigrants,” and “You should support same-sex marriage.” These statements were supposed to be delivered with different pitched voices to test the prediction that if people with lower-pitched voices are better leaders, they should also be more persuasive when making policy appeals.
Not necessarily better leaders
Voters prefer to vote for candidates with lower-sounding voices, but the results of the study discovered that the elected officials with the lower voices are not more effective lawmakers, Eureka Alert reported. Speakers with lower voices are also not more persuasive when they make statements about government policies.
In a previous study conducted by the two researchers, they found that American voters generally prefer to vote for candidates with lower voices. Both laboratory experiments and studies of real elections were the bases of their results. It didn't matter whether the voter and the candidate were male or female.
Klofstad explained that modern-day political leadership is more about competing ideologies than brute force. However, at some earlier time in human history, she said it was probably better off to have a literally stronger leader, Futurity reported.
She said that conflating baritones with brawn has some merits of its own. Klofstad noted that males and females with lower-pitched voices generally have higher testosterone and are physically stronger and more aggressive.
Their findings tried to answer the question if the voters’ bias in favor or picking congressional leaders with lower voices is beneficial or harmful to democracy. The perceptual bias is not either one. Voters who were influenced by the tone of the voice of the candidate did not necessarily pick more effective or stronger leaders. But they also did not select worse legislators.
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There were a total of 344 male participants ages 39 to 75 and 433 women participants ages 19 to 76 years old. The survey was done in 2016, the Cooperative Congressional Election Study post-election survey. It was held online by YouGov between November 9 and December 14, 2016, with 287 Democrats, 198 Republicans, and 219 independents.
The 800 participants finished an online questionnaire with information about the gender and age of two hypothetical candidates. They also indicated whom they would vote for. Although the age range of the candidates was from 30 to 70, those they were most likely to win were those in their 40s and 50s.
Klofstad pointed out that at that age, leaders are not so young that they are too inexperienced. However, they are not so old that their health is beginning to worsen and they are no longer capable of active leadership. It also happens to be the time when people’s voice reach their lowest pitch.
She noted that people often think of themselves as rational beings. However, based on their study, it also showed that voters also make thin impressionistic judgments based on very subtle signals that they may or may not be aware of. Klofstad noted that biases are not necessarily always bad because there could be some good reason to go with our gut.
However, if it turned out in the end that the politicians with lower voices are actually poorer leaders, then Klofstad acknowledged that it is bad that voters are cueing into this signal when it is not actually a reliable indicator of a lawmaker’s leadership ability.
If we become more aware of the biases that influence our behavior at the precincts, it may help us control them or counteract them if indeed our behavior leads us to make poor choices, she said.
[researchpaper 리서치페이퍼= Vittorio Hernandez 기자]