Voice pitch and politics: How voices (and faces and weight) win votes, with Casey Klofstad. 06 Oct 2015

Tuesday, October 06, 2015 Rob 7 Comments

How voices and faces win votes. I talk to Casey Klofstad about his new research into voice pitch and the effect it has on perceptions of a political candidate's age, strength, and competence. We'll also look at how other nonverbal cues, including facial appearance, influence election success.

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Would anyone vote for that face?

Are female political candidates more successful if they have deep voices? New research by Casey Klofstad shows that Margaret Thatcher may have been correct to lower her voice an octave or two.

The articles covered in the show:

Elmore, W., Vonnahame, E. M., Thompson, L., Filion, D., & Lundgren, J. D. (2015). Evaluating political candidates: Does weight matter? Translational Issues in Psychological Science, 1(3), 287-297. Read summary

Klofstad, C. A., Anderson, C., & Nowicki, S. (2015). Perceptions of competence, strength, and age influence voters to select leaders with lower-pitched voices. PLoS One, 10(8), e0133779. Read paper

Laustsen, L., & Petersen, M. B. (in press). Winning faces vary by ideology: How nonverbal source cues influence election and communication success in politics. Political Communication. Read summary


  1. Seriously, would you say this line is a good fit to the attractiveness ratings of women's voices? It looks a bit weak to me. There's also no ratings for girls under 18 which could change the best fit line a lot. I think more research is needed.


    Data from this paper:


  2. Researchers tend not to acquire ratings from/of people under 18, for ethical reasons. There are ways around this, but for most research it is not worth the bother.

  3. Well ok, but my main point is that there doesn't really seem to be much of a peak in the data. The average rating seem pretty constant up until the late 30s and then nosedives. What happens below the age of 18 is obviously still unknown.


  4. Well, yes, I do agree that the relationship is not especially strong and is certainly not linear where each year = X change in attractiveness.

  5. Showing the full y-axis makes it clearer what I'm getting at. The best fit curve in the paper seems at bit forced imo. Like I said, I think more research is needed, especially with under 18s. What's the big ethical problem, seriously???


  6. Well I wouldn't say forced, to the extent that the lines was probably fit automatically by the software they used (if a quadratic regression is significant, it is justified to fit the graph). This doesn't mean the relationship is necessarily all that important, of course.

    The ethical question is a tricky one. Obviously if you get consent from minors, it is OK. And other researchers have investigated the preferences of minors. But it obviously requires greater ethical oversight than does the recruitment of adults, because minors are classed as a vulnerable group and it is more difficult to show that they have given informed consent (their parents may have to give consent too). I suppose the other thing is that not everyone is interested in studying every possible variable. I take your point that it would be interesting in this case to know what the data would look like with a wider age range of participants, but I don't think it is a failing of the authors to have not tested minors (if we all did that, we'd probably never get any research done).

  7. I don't mean to be annoying but here's quick analysis I did. By averaging over small regions you can see that there's no significant change in the ratings from the late teens to the late thirties. Only from about 40 onward as a woman approaches the end of her fertility do the ratings go down. There doesn't seems to be any peak at the age of highest fertility. It seems that the ratings are only tracking whether a woman is fertile or not rather than the "degree" of her fertility.



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