Wednesday 26 October 2016

Long-running TV documentary offers clues to changes in boys' voices

Published 05/10/2016 | 00:26

Boys' voices change over time but the pitch is set from an early age, new research suggests
Boys' voices change over time but the pitch is set from an early age, new research suggests

British research using voice samples from the long-running Seven Up! television documentary series has found the male voice settles at a certain frequency much earlier than previously thought.

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Psychologists at the University of Sussex carried out research that found the voice pitch of males was often determined by the age of seven, rather than when puberty hit.

Researchers examined vocal changes using interview footage from Seven Up!, the popular TV series which has charted the lives of 14 children since they were aged seven in 1964.

Analysis was carried out on the voices of the 10 men who took part in the programme, which featured children from different walks of life going through the trials and tribulations of adulthood.

The study, published the Royal Society journal Open Science, found that while their vocal pitch did drop dramatically between the ages of seven and 21, their vocal pitch at age seven still strongly predicted their pitch at every subsequent adult age.

Dr David Reby, from the University of Sussex, said: "These results show that individual differences in men's voice pitch remain remarkably stable throughout the lifetime and, in fact, emerge long before sexual maturation and pubertal influences on the vocal anatomy.

"Ultimately what this means is that voice pitch in males may be linked to levels of androgen exposure early in life, possibly even in the mother's womb."

Dr Kasia Pisanski, research fellow at the University of Sussex, added : "These results have huge implications on how men are perceived by others throughout their adult life, as a large body of research has shown that voice pitch affects people's judgements of attractiveness, masculinity, dominance, competence, likeability and trustworthiness.

"Given that listeners also attribute certain traits to adolescents and even to babies with high or low-pitched voices, as well as to adults, a child's voice pitch could potentially predict how that person will be perceived by their peers well into adulthood."

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