Wednesday, 03 Dec, 2008 Science

High-Voiced Men More Likely to Be Good Hunters


Recent research among African hunter-gatherers showed that women who gave birth to a child show more interest in men with higher-pitched voices while fertile women who did not give birth to a child faint when hearing a deep male voice.

Researchers carried out their research on the population of Hadza, who are hunter-gatherers living in northern Tanzania. These people were almost not exposed to the pop culture; they did not see any advertisement, did not hear pop songs and are not aware of the latest news in the world. This is why they represent an ideal target for scientists who study innate sexual preferences.

According to the lead researcher Coren Apicella, who works as an anthropologist at Harvard University, the Hadza are now living like we lived about 200 millenniums ago. "Most of our psychological preferences probably evolved when we were hunter-gatherers," she said.

In her 6-months study, Apicella analyzed the vocal preference of Hadza people. It is worth mentioning that her earlier study showed that men with a deep voice had more children than tenors. The current study involved the analysis of vocal preferences among 88 men and women from the Tanzanian ethnic group. Together with her team, Apicella recorded the word "hujambo," pronounced by members of both sexes. Hujambo from Swahili may be translated as "hello." After Hadza women listened to the digitally-altered high and low register, they were asked if the voice could belong to a man who is a good hunter and husband. Hadza men had to state whether the voice could belong to a woman that is a good wife and a good forager.

The results showed that men linked deeper female voice with better foragers, but they were more attracted to the high-pitched female voice. Hadza women said that a man with a deep voice could be a better hunter. However, they did not have any specific preference regarding the voice of a good husband, having little interest in what a good husband sounds like.

After analyzing the gathered information, the researcher found that about 50 percent of women that took part in the study were nursing children. She then divided all women according to this particular feature and found that nursing women had more interest in higher-pitched tones and fertile women were more attracted to deeper voices. According to Apicella, when women from the studied group start feeding, their foraging drops off.

"They rely on men a lot more to bring in food and resources. Maybe a higher-pitched voice is signalling pro-social behaviour," she suggested.

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