Research Tuesday: Vocal Attractiveness

By Cyndee Williams Bowen, SLP

Citation: Babel M, McGuire G, King J (2014) Towards a More Nuanced View of Vocal Attractiveness. PLoS ONE 9(2): e88616. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0088616

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Appearances are very important to people. Cosmetic surgery was once a luxury available to the rich and famous. Today, almost anyone can afford to “have a little work done” to make themselves more attractive and confident in their business and personal lives.  An attractive vocal quality is part of the package. It can be distracting to hear a less than pleasant vocal quality in a person with a newly refreshed, more healthy, youthful appearance.  I offer a behavioral voice lift to such individuals in my private practice. The study I chose to review for this month’s Research Tuesday project explores the voice parameters that influence perceptual ratings of vocal attractiveness.

The Study

This was a complex project. A wide variety of acoustic, perceptual, and statistical measures were analyzed to identify factors most common to people with attractive vocal quality. A total of 60 participants from states west of the Mississippi River were selected to participate in the study. Their speech samples were analyzed acoustically and perceptually rated for attractiveness by a group of male and female college students from California.


The researchers concluded that perceptions of attractive vocal quality are more complex than originally thought. Acoustic measures point to a variety of physical characteristics that combine with local norms to influence and define vocal attractiveness. In other words, people are more likely to be attracted to people who sound most like them, e.g. members of their geographic, socioeconomic, age-related peer groups, etc. The researchers also found that men and women raters agreed significantly regarding vocal attractiveness in women; however, men were reluctant to  rate other men’s voices favorably.

Clinical Applications

The article was highly technical and rather difficult to read. It was interesting, but it did not offer much that is immediately applicable to my practice. My take-away is that:

  1. Perceptions of vocal attractiveness impact people in personal and business interactions.
  1. Cultural and gender considerations influence perceptions of vocal quality.

These messages will inform ongoing plans to market the specialized voice programs I offer.


CyndeeBlue2Cynthia “Cyndee” Williams Bowen, MS, CCC-SLP owns Bowen Speech-Language Therapy, LLC in Clearwater, FL.  She is committed to collaboration with expertise and creativity for empowered communication, swallowing, and vocal quality. Visit the Bowen Speech Website for more information.

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