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Powerful people develop loud, high-pitched, monotonous voices, study claims

 You may have noticed that the voices of politicians seem to change as they rise up the ranks.


Now scientists claim that being in a position of power can fundamentally change the way you speak and other people can pick up on these vocal cues.


They say that the cues - such as talking more loudly with less variation in pitch - tell people who is really in charge, regardless of what an individual is saying.






‘Our findings suggest that whether it's parents attempting to assert authority over unruly children, haggling between a car salesman and customer, or negotiations between heads of states, the sound of the voices involved may profoundly determine the outcome of those interactions,’ psychological scientist Sei Jin Ko of San Diego State University said.

圣地亚哥州立大学(San Diego State University)的心理学家柯谢金(Sei Jin Ko)指出:“研究表明,不管是父母想在任性的小孩面前树立威信,还是汽车销售员与顾客讨价还价,抑或是各国元首进行会谈,他们的说话方式都会对这些互动造成深远影响。

Dr Ko and her team had long been interested in non-language-related properties of speech, but it was former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher that inspired them to investigate the relationship between acoustic cues and power.


‘It was quite well known that Thatcher had gone through extensive voice coaching to exude a more authoritative, powerful persona,’ she explained.


‘We wanted to explore how something so fundamental as power might elicit changes in the way a voice sounds, and how these situational vocal changes impact the way listeners perceive and behave toward the speakers.’


To find out, Dr Ko, Melody Sadler, also of San Diego State and Adam Galinsky of Columbia Business School, designed two studies.

为了找出答案,柯博士与同事梅洛迪·萨德勒(Melody Sadler),以及哥伦比亚商学院的亚当·加林斯基(Adam Galinsky)设计了两个实验。

In the first experiment, they recorded 161 college students reading a passage so they could record their natural acoustics.


The participants were then randomly assigned to play a specific role in a negotiation exercise, according to the study, published in the journal Psychological Science.


Students assigned to a ‘high rank’ were told to go into the negotiation imagining that they either had a strong alternative offer, valuable inside information, or high status in the workplace. Alternatively, they were also asked to recall an experience in which they had power before the negotiation started.


Low-rank students, on the other hand, were told to imagine they had either a weak offer, no inside information, or low workplace status, or they were asked to recall an experience in which they lacked power.


The students then read a second passage aloud in character, as if they were negotiating with an imaginary adversary and their voices were recorded.


All the students involved in the experiment read the same opening, which allowed the researchers to examine acoustics fairly, because the contents of the passage remained the same.






Comparing the first and second recordings, the researchers found that the voices of students assigned to high-power roles tended to go up in pitch, as well as become more monotone - with less variable in pitch – and varied more in volume than the voices of students assigned low-power roles.


‘Amazingly, power affected our participants' voices in almost the exact same way that Thatcher's voice changed after her vocal training,’ said Professor Galinsky.


While Baroness Thatcher's voice got deeper overall thanks to voice coaching, the researchers told MailOnline that it got higher pitched in 'power situations'.


'That is different from a voice being generally high or low pitched,' they explained.

'Or to put it another way, even if speaker A's voice is generally lower pitched than speaker B's voice, both speakers can increase their pitch to the same degree in a high power situation.'


And the students' vocal cues didn't go unnoticed.


A second experiment with a separate group of college students revealed that listeners, who had no knowledge of the first experiment, were able to pick up on these power-related vocal cues to determine who did and did not have power.


Listeners ranked speakers who had been assigned to the high-rank group as more likely to engage in high-power behaviours and they were able to spot whether a speaker held a position of power or not, with ‘considerable accuracy’.


Echoing the findings of the first experiment, listeners tended to associate higher pitch and voices that varied in volume, with powerful people. They also associated louder voices with higher power.


‘These findings suggest that listeners are quite perceptive to these subtle variations in vocal cues and they use these cues to decide who is in charge,’ Professor Galinsky said.



(译者:zoe212 编辑:丹妮)



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