Mating context and menstrual phase affect women’s
preferences for male voice pitch
David Andrew Puts
Department of Anthropology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA
Initial receipt 4 December 2004; final revision received 8 March 2005
Fundamental frequency ( F
) is the vocal acoustic parameter closest to what we perceive as pitch.
Men speak at a lower F
than do women, even controlling for body size. Although the developmental
and anatomical reasons for this sex difference are known, the evolutionary reasons are not. By
examining fertility-related variation in women’s preferences for men’s voices, the present study tests
the hypothesis that female choice for good genes influenced the evolution of male voice pitch (VP).
Unlike previous correlational studies that did not consider the effects of menstrual phase and mating
context on women’s preferences for male VP, the present study includes these variables and utilizes
experimental pitch (P) manipulations. Results indicate that low VP is preferred mainly in short-term
mating contexts rather than in long-term, committed ones, and this mating context effect is greatest
when women are in the fertile phase of their ovulatory cycles. Moreover, lower male F
with higher self-reported mating success. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that an
association between low male VP and heritable fitness led to the evolution of the observed patterns in
women’s P preferences and men’s mating success and that these patterns influenced the evolution of
low VP in men. However, alternative explanations are considered.
D 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Fundamental frequency; Good genes; Mate choice; Menstrual effect; Sexual selection; Voice pitch
1090-5138/05/$ – see front matter D 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Note. A previous version of this paper received the 2004 New Young Investigator award from the Human
Behavior and Evolution Society.
Evolution and Human Behavior 26 (2005) 388–397