Articulatory clarity, vocal pitch and dominance-judgments of male speech


I have been reviewing a few papers in detail. Based on these papers, I have understood that variables related to the tone of male voice influence the perception of social and physical dominance and the capacity for leadership ability. Research has revealed that both men’s voice pitch and competitive dispositions are related to testosterone. Most listeners’ evaluations agree with one another. A recent study aimed to examine whether, and to what extent, a deep voice is associated with labor market success among public company Chief Executive Officers (CEOs).  This study found that deep voiced males oversee larger firms, receive more compensation, and are retained longer suggesting that voice pitch matters in leadership selection.  I am beginning to appreciate the fact that social evaluations are partly but significantly influenced by biological factors, and that it is important to look into all aspects of our nature unabashedly.

In our study, we plan to examine links between articulation and social evaluations from a biological perspective. Speech is possible because of our ability to articulate or produce sounds. Individual differences in articulation may be due to anatomical, physiological and psychosocial factors. With regard to the review of literature on these areas, we have been looking around for precise ways to define and measure articulatory clarity. Explanations regarding the articulation of sounds such as /p/ and /b/– the ones we will be using in our study as stimuli to be judged by listeners–seem to be in terms of the force of sound production or in terms of a timing factor related to lip opening and vocal fold activation during sound production. The latter is a widely used measure and is easy to obtain. I look forward to studying more about the measurement procedure in the speech science class that I will be taking in fall. Sethu and I have been discussing the various steps involved in our research project. We have discussed the design of the study as well as the test materials to be used. We have been talking about participant recruitment methods, informed consent and confidentiality issues, rating scale and stimuli preparations, the number of participants, organizing the data. I am looking forward to carrying out the research as soon as we get the IRB application approved.

Articulatory clarity, vocal pitch and dominance-judgments of male speech

Dr. Sethu Karthikeyan and Catherine Mastricovo

“Articulatory clarity, vocal pitch and dominance-judgments of male speech”

Blog #1

June 28, 2013


Dr. Sethu Karthikeyan and I will be working as a team to carry out a study titled “Articulatory clarity, vocal pitch and dominance-judgments of male speech[1].”  We aim to study acoustic measures related to pitch, loudness and rate of speech.  Sethu and I will look at the association between these acoustic measures and evaluations of dominance.  Although there have been studies relating vocal pitch and dominance (e.g., Puts et al. 2007), as far as we know, we will be the first to introduce another acoustic factor, “articulation strength/clarity”* into these kinds of studies. The idea was originally suggested by John L. Locke (e.g., Locke, 2008).

Participants will listen to previously recorded speech samples of men, and will rate them for dominance using 100-point scales.  The male speech samples will be analyzed acoustically using Multi-Speech software. Through our research, we plan to study those aspects of communication that unconsciously influence our personality and aesthetic judgments.  Ultimately we hope that our work will help us gain insight into the speaking behavior from an evolutionary perspective.  I am excited to be involved in this research.

Sethu and I have submitted the IRB application, and as soon as we receive the approval we will begin the study.  In the meantime we will be doing a detailed literature review.  Currently I am reading two articles “Men’s voices as dominance signals: vocal fundamental and formant frequencies influence dominance attributions among men” and “Voice pitch and the labor market success of male chief executive officers” (references included). I am eager and thankful to be a part of something new and influential here at Pace University, and I know that I will learn so much from my brilliant mentor.



Locke, J. L. (2008). Cost and complexity: selection for speech and language. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 251, 640-652.

Mayew, W. J., Parsons, C. A., Venkatachalam, M. (2013). Voice pitch and the labor market success of male chief executive officers. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 34, 243-248.

Puts, D. A., Hodges, C. R., Cardenas, R. A., & Gaulin, S. J. C. (2007). Men’s voice as dominance signals: vocal and fundamental and formant frequencies influence dominance attributions among men. Evolution and Human Behavior, 28, 340-344.


[1] Articulation refers to the motor movements involved in speech production, and vocal pitch (tone) refers to how low or high a person’s voice is.