Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Adaptations in humans for assessing physical strength from the voice

  • Author(s): Sell, A
  • Bryant, GA
  • Cosmides, L
  • Tooby, J
  • Sznycer, D
  • Von Rueden, C
  • Krauss, A
  • Gurven, M
  • et al.

Published Web Location
No data is associated with this publication.

Recent research has shown that humans, like many other animals, have a specialization for assessing fighting ability from visual cues. Because it is probable that the voice contains cues of strength and formidability that are not available visually, we predicted that selection has also equipped humans with the ability to estimate physical strength from the voice. We found that subjects accurately assessed upper-body strength in voices taken from eight samples across four distinct populations and language groups: the Tsimane of Bolivia, Andean herder-horticulturalists and United States and Romanian college students. Regardless of whether raters were told to assess height, weight, strength or fighting ability, they produced similar ratings that tracked upper-body strength independent of height and weight. Male voices were more accurately assessed than female voices, which is consistent with ethnographic data showing a greater tendency among males to engage in violent aggression. Raters extracted information about strength from the voice that was not supplied from visual cues, and were accurate with both familiar and unfamiliar languages. These results provide, to our knowledge, the first direct evidence that both men and women can accurately assess men's physical strength from the voice, and suggest that estimates of strength are used to assess fighting ability. © 2010 The Royal Society.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC Academic Senate's Open Access Policy. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Item not freely available? Link broken?
Report a problem accessing this item