Why Does My Voice Change When I Talk To People I’m Intimidated By? A New Study Can Explain
Sometimes I find myself in certain situations where the actual sound of my own voice kind of weirds me out.
For the most part, whenever I talk, I just don't even consider what my voice sounds like -- which is why I become alarmed, I suppose, when it morphs into something noticeably different than normal.
You've definitely been there before.
It's when you're on the phone with Verizon trying to get that data overage charge removed, or when you're in a job interview, or perhaps when you're talking to some uncomfortably attractive party guest.
Suddenly, your voice spikes two octaves, or mellows itself, all sweet and butter-like.
When it happens to me, it kind of sounds like I'm trying to soothe a puppy. It's weird.
On the other hand, my voice sometimes deepens, or it kind of sounds more serious than usual -- it's typically when I'm trying to assert myself.
Well, according to a study from The University of Stirling, this whole voice-changing thing is actually a common phenomenon.
It has something to do with how you perceive the status of the person you're talking to.
People apparently change the pitch of their voice depending on how dominant they feel in the interaction.
In the study, the researchers simulated a job interview task, and found that the pitch of the participants' voices changed, particularly in relation to “high-status” individuals (read: a potentially scary and high-powered boss).
They also asked the participants both personal and general questions about their self-perception.
Dr. Viktoria Mileva, a postdoctoral researcher at the university said of the study,
If someone perceives their interviewer to be more dominant than them, they raise their pitch. This may be a signal of submissiveness, to show the listener that you are not a threat, and to avoid possible confrontations.
The findings showed that both men and women did this -- the pitch of voice changed depending upon how “prestigious” and “dominant” they perceived the person they were speaking with, in relation to their own perception of themselves.
Generally speaking, people talked to high-status individuals in a higher pitch.
But things changed a little depending on what the person's self-perception was.
Participants who considered themselves to be generally dominant spoke in a lower tone when talking to people of a high status.
And people who rated themselves as being high in prestige didn't change their tone of voice at all when talking to other people present who were also of a high prestige.
Milleva also said that "signals and perceptions of human social status have an effect on virtually every human interaction."
So, you know, it's something to think about the next time your voice could suddenly crack glass.