Does Voice Tell Us Something About A Person’s Personality?
Since the beginning of life, humans have been fascinated by certain types of voices whereas some voices can just annoy us.
Voice is an important factor when it comes to communicating the personality traits of one’s self. It tells us how we feel and what emotions we are going through.
For decades, research has suggested that the sound of a person’s voice influences how they are regarded by others, though it was pretty unclear if these impressions were accurate. Humans tend to make snap judgments about someone’s personality from many features including gender, body size, strength, and voice.
We finally know that vocal pitch is indicative of at least certain personality traits, such as dominance, extraversion, and sociosexuality, according to a groundbreaking study published in the journal of research in personality.
They also gathered information on neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness, among other Big Five personality dimensions.
The researchers reviewed 11 distinct datasets comprising more than 2,200 people in studies focused on various research issues for the study, which was published March 16 in the Journal of Research in Personality.
Voice recordings were used to compare personality measures extracted from self-reported questionnaires.
The analysis’s key question was whether the information we pick up from people’s voices is truly reflective of their personalities, according to Julia Stern, a researcher at the University of Göttingen in Germany and the paper’s lead author.
As it turned out, lower-pitched voices were associated with greater dominance, extroversion, and sociosexuality (e.g. were more interested in sex outside a relationship), according to the study.
The link between the pitch of our voice and other Big Five personality traits (such as agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, or openness to new experiences) appears to be less obvious. It’s quite possible these characteristics aren’t reflected in voice pitch.
“People’s voices can make a huge and immediate impression on us,” explains Dr. Julia Stern, at the Biological Personality Psychology Group at the University of Göttingen, Germany.
“Even if we just hear someone’s voice without any visual clues – for instance on the phone – we know pretty soon whether we’re talking to a man, a woman, a child, or an older person. We can pick up on whether the person sounds interested, friendly, sad, nervous, or whether they have an attractive voice. We also start to make assumptions about trust and dominance.” This led Stern to interrogate whether these assumptions were justified. “The first step was to investigate whether voices are, indeed, related to people’s personality. And our results suggest that people do seem to express some aspects of their personality with their voice.”
The study transcends into new grounds in suggesting that people with high-pitched voices are likely to rank higher in neuroticism i.e. they are less likely to be emotionally stable. “It makes sense, if you think of a person with a higher voice, you probably think, ‘This person is more nervous,'” Dr. Stern remarked.
Even the most well-researched study can have some limitations. Though this is a groundbreaking study that has taken a deep dive into this topic, a few things must still be kept in mind before applying the findings to those we know.
Because the datasets were only obtained from Western nations, the findings may not be generalizable to those in other areas of the world. Moreover, the social, cultural, and biological factors aren’t covered in this research
The voice recordings used in the study were not standardized; participants were given different phrases, which could have influenced the pitch of their voices, albeit only slightly. Moreover, the meaning and context of the phrase could have a role to play in making up the minds of those who heard them.
Finally, the research lacks a broader social context, which is something the researchers are now looking at in greater depth than ever before. According to Dr. Stern. “If you talk to a child, you may raise the pitch of your voice a little bit,” Stern said. “If you talk to your boss, you may talk in a different way than when you talk to your partner. It would be interesting to see how people express their personality in their voice in different social contexts.”
Perhaps there will be further studies to explore the lingering issues that were not discussed in the study but this study does go a few steps further than previous research in the same area.
Manzar Bashir is a qualified Business Psychologist. He is a Chartered member of the CIPD, a Principal Practitioner at the Association for Business Psychology UK, and a member of the British Psychological Society. He has an alumni of NUST and Middlesex University London.
He is qualified practitioner of a number of personality tools including the MBTI, Emotional Intelligence, Hogan, Saville, Trait and Sosie. He has worked for clients including State Bank, the Emirates group, US Embassy, Allied Bank, Faysal Bank, Civil Services Academy and others.
He tweets @manzarbashir & can be reached at [email protected]