Friday, May 02, 2008

Giving voice to fertility (by Suzie)

A new study says men and women find women's voices more attractive at the time of the month when the women are most fertile. You may be able to access the full article, by Nathan Pipitone and Gordon Gallup of the State University of New York at Albany, here.
Studies like this are great for the media because they can be illustrated with sexy women or just parts of sexy women, such as open, red lips. Plus, reporters get to write about the "battle of the sexes" as if we were on a level playing field. But wait, there's more science to report, courtesy of New Scientist:
The fact that men notice the differences in vocal attractiveness suggests that there is a subtle evolutionary battle of the sexes going on, says Gallup: as women evolve ever more efficient ways to conceal fertility - to avoid unwanted attention - men become increasingly sensitive to the tiny changes that do occur. Other women also pick up on the changes, perhaps to keep an eye on the competition, he suggests.
How do we know that this whole women's-voices-tied-to-fertility-and-men-sense-it thing has changed over time? Maybe it was always this way. Why would evolution help women conceal their fertility? Wouldn't it make sense that the women who shout from the rooftop, "Hey, I'm fertile! Let's have sex!" would be the ones most likely to pass along their genes, as compared with the women who are busily evolving ways to conceal their fertility? Why would women rate voices as "attractive" in women with whom they are trying to compete? Why would women be attracted to the voice of a competitor?