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What does your voice say about you?

Over the years we’ve worked with countless voice artists to record voiceovers for all kinds of clients. And one of the most important parts of the process is choosing the right voice for their projects. So it’s a good job we know a thing or two about how the right voice can influence listeners.

Today, we thought it might be interesting to ask what your voice says about you and the influence it has on others. We will see what techniques they use in the voice-over industry, but also get you personally thinking about every word you say.

The effects of familiar voices

In the advertising world, it’s a well-established concept that familiar voices come across as more trustworthy and in-turn effective at selling. This is why so many voiceovers feature celebrities or veteran voice actors – because we trust what we know.

That’s not the only effect familiar voices can have on people. When people say you sound really similar to some famous actor or actress, there could be more at play.

  • Familiar voices stand out from other noises, meaning we hear them easier
  • They’re easier to understand
  • Familiar voices trigger memories and the emotions we associate with them
  • Familiar voices are also easier to ignore if we want

Deeper voices are more memorable

What qualifies as a deep voice for men and women may be distinct but there’s a consistent theme for both. Studies have shown that deeper voices are more memorable, while others suggest they sound more authoritative.

This is indubitable for women listening to male speakers but actually the same trend exists regardless of gender.

It’s especially important in the political arena, but also the workplace or anywhere that voices are competing or information needs to be remembered – e.g: debates, speeches, presentations, etc. It’s usually the overpowering voices that are heard but they also need to be careful they don’t become irritating.

Women are attracted to deeper voices

Okay, so this won’t come as much of a surprise to anyone, but bear with us. Women have been found to be attracted to deeper voices in men, but it’s not always a case of deeper being better.

  • Guys with deep voices also sound like they are more likely to cheat
  • Deep voices can sound more intimidating
  • Deep male voices are found to be more attractive and memorable
  • They evoke a sense of leadership, making them more dominant
  • We associate deep voices with physical size and strength

That first point is particularly interesting and it comes down to the fact that deeper voices in men are linked to higher testosterone levels. In fact, all of the features above can be attributed to ideas we associate with testosterone and masculinity. Studies have also found men with deeper voices (unsurprisingly) get more action too, so it’s not a groundless assumption.

Somewhat ironically, separate studies have found men with deeper voices are more likely to have a lower sperm count. #Matinéefunfact

And guys prefer higher voices in women

Equally unsurprising is the revelation that men prefer higher voices in women. Once again, it comes down to preconceived (and slightly sexist) ideas that higher voices signal smaller bodies, a more submissive nature and femininity.

There’s chemistry at work here as well, because higher voices in women are teamed with higher oestrogen levels. And on a similar note, women with higher voices are also considered more likely to cheat, based on elevated hormone levels and attractiveness to the opposite sex.

Foreign accents can be less trustworthy

This one sounds awful, but the science behind this reaction isn’t so much a question of prejudice. Scientists say foreign accents are less believable because they tend to be less familiar to us. There’s also the theory that the more difficult it is to understand a speaker, the less faith we have in what they say. These two factors combined make an unfortunate, but sometimes drastic impact on how we interpret accents.

Stereotypes are hard to escape

As you can see from the points we’ve mentioned so far, stereotypes play a pretty big role in how we interpret voices. This isn’t limited to how we speak, of course, but one of many signals we use to make quick assumptions about people we don’t know.

We’ve mentioned accents, depth of voice, familiarity and a few gender assumptions so far. But that doesn’t even scratch the surface of voice stereotypes our minds use without us even realising. Age, intelligence, social class, sexuality and so many more assumptions can be made about us by nothing more than our voices.

Your voice says a lot about you

So, as you can see, you voice says a lot about you – mostly subconscious signals listeners pick up on without even realising. Studies have also found we’re pretty good at interpreting those signals too, and some of us can even match unknown voices to the corresponding photos, which is kind of scary!

The presence of so many stereotypes in this process is a slightly touchy subject, but the science largely backs them up. This helps explain why it took voice industries so long to break out of traditional stereotypes and explore new options. It turns out our subconscious can be a pretty ruthless

So here’s a fun little game your can try. Listen to these two audios and create an image in your head of what you think the voice looks like. Click below to see how accurate you were.

  • Show-reel     
  • Narration (Northern accent)     

Reveal pictures of English voice talents Michael & Cromerty.