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Why women think deep when sounding out potential mates

Date: 2006-10-17

POP star James Blunt may think she's "beautiful", but the girl in question is more likely to prefer the masterful tones of soul legend Barry White when looking for a mate.

Psychologists, led by Dr David Feinberg at St Andrews University, found that women tend to prefer the deep voice of a man during the most fertile phase of the menstrual cycle.

During their least fertile phase, most women showed less signs of this preference and were more open to a higher, more feminine voice that signalled the man was likely to be a caring, sharing type who would be a good father.

However, attractive and feminine women gave consistently high ratings to the deeper tones of the alpha male, which the scientists said suggested they were able to tame and persuade the normally promiscuous "caveman" type to commit to a long-term relationship.

Dr Feinberg said: "We would expect everyone to prefer Barry White's voice over James Blunt's, but they would like Barry White even more at their most fertile stage.

"But it may be in general women are looking for someone who is going to care for them and for their kids, and men who sing with high voices might be catering to that audience.

"There are a lot of cultural influences on our preferences, but it seems that culture itself is guided by evolution. By no means am I preaching biological determinism - we still have choice and free will - but it may be our free will is guided by evolution."

The researchers took recordings of voices saying "oo, ah, ee, oh and eh" and then altered the pitch to make them sound higher or lower. A group of women were then asked to rate the voices on a scale of one to seven and their scores were then matched to their phase in the menstrual cycle.

Dr Feinberg, who worked with colleagues from Aberdeen University and Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, said: "The menstrual cycle does not affect every woman's preferences equally. While we normally think that masculine men are more out for one-night stands than marriage, our research suggests that highly attractive and feminine women can get these masculine men to look for commitment."

However, in a sign of hope for all, he said he did not have "the deepest, most attractive voice" and still had a partner.

"It might be that someone with a high-pitched voice like me might be able to get a committed relationship with a woman, but there's always the possibility that women are going to go out and cheat with a man with a deep voice," Dr Feinberg said.

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