WASHINGTON DC: Men with deep voices have more children, probably because they have a wider choice of mates, according to a study of nomadic African tribesmen.
“We found that men with deep voices have more children than their high-pitched counterparts,” said anthropologist Coren Apicella of Harvard University in the U.S., who spent six months in northern Tanzania last year, studying the nomadic, hunter-gatherer Hadza people.
The Hadza are one of a few remaining hunter-gatherer cultures remaining on Earth. They use no modern birth control and are as close as researchers can get today to a prehistoric human society.
“Greater access to women”
The study, reported in the journal Biology Letters was a collaborative effort between Harvard, McMaster University in Canada and Florida State University. It is the first to try to determine if there is a link between voice pitch in men and “Darwinian fitness” – or evolutionary success – in humans.
“Darwinian fitness, in lay terms, means the number of children we have,” said Apicella, adding that the research did not find a link between voice pitch and the children’s health or mortality rate.
The mortality rate of children fathered by men with higher-pitched voices was not significantly greater than that of children fathered by deeper-voiced men, she said, suggesting that deep voices are not necessarily linked to how healthy men are.
It doesn’t seem like deep-voiced men are passing on good genes to their offspring, as has been hypothesized in the past, but probably has to do with them having greater access to women, said Apicella.
To conduct the study, Apicella visited nine Hadza encampments and had 49 men and 52 women from the nomadic tribe sit in her Landrover “and say ‘hujambo’, which means ‘hello’, into a microphone.” The recordings were then analysed for sound frequency. Study participants were also asked to report how many children they’d had, and how many were still alive.
“The man with the lowest-pitch voice in the study fathered 10 children, of whom nine are still living, and the man with the highest-pitch voice fathered three children, of whom one is still living,” said Apicella. Voice pitch was not found to be a good predictor of a women’s Darwinian fitness.
“Based on these findings, we speculate that the associations reported between reproductive success and voice pitch in men are probably mediated by greater access to fecund women,” says the study. It notes that if deeper voiced men have been more reproductively successful through out history that it could explain the large difference between the pitch of male and female voices today.