Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Women's memory enhanced by lower male voice pitch.

Women are attracted to low male voices, and a prevailing idea is that this is relevant to mate selection. Kevin Allen and colleagues now show that they are also more likely to remember what those low voices say to them. (It makes sense that memory should be sensitive towards content of adaptive value and thus help us to act in ways that enhance our reproductive fitness):
From a functionalist perspective, human memory should be attuned to information of adaptive value for one’s survival and reproductive fitness. While evidence of sensitivity to survival-related information is growing, specific links between memory and information that could impact upon reproductive fitness have remained elusive. Here, in two experiments, we showed that memory in women is sensitive to male voice pitch, a sexually dimorphic cue important for mate choice because it not only serves as an indicator of genetic quality, but may also signal behavioural traits undesirable in a long-term partner. In a first experiment, we found that women’s visual object memory is significantly enhanced when an object’s name is spoken during encoding in a masculinised (i.e., lower-pitch) versus feminised (i.e., higher-pitch) male voice, but that no analogous effect occurs when women listen to other women’s voices. A second experiment replicated this pattern of results, additionally showing that lowering and raising male voice pitch enhanced and impaired women’s memory, respectively, relative to a baseline (i.e., unmanipulated) voice condition. The modulatory effect of sexual dimorphism cues in the male voice may reveal a mate-choice adaptation within women’s memory, sculpted by evolution in response to the dilemma posed by the double-edged qualities of male masculinity.

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