Q: Are there ways that I can influence how much people trust me?
A: One interesting study published in 2017 suggested that men can actually influence their trustworthiness by raising the pitch of their voice. However, the study also found that lower men’s voices are perceived as more attractive.
Relationships (business, intimate, or otherwise) are highly influenced by trust.
Trust is the glue that binds agreements and relationships together.
Therefore, it is important to find out how to influence and build trust between people.
One seemingly unlikely influence on trust may be the way a man talks.
Some researchers at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada suggested that perhaps vocal pitch influences trust.
- Vocal pitch is related to levels of testosterone.
- Higher levels of testosterone are related to dominance, aggression, and the exploitation of trust (e.g., cheating in relationships). More testosterone also means a deeper, more resonant voice.
- So, while higher testosterone might be preferable in some circumstances, it could be that indicators of high testosterone cause people to withhold trust.
Therefore (spoiler alert), it may be possible to increase people’s trust in you by simply raising the pitch of your voice.
The results of this experiment were published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior in 2017.
First, the researchers recruited 48 men and women to record their voices.
We’ll mostly be focusing on the men in this study.
The researchers got the voice actors to record a wide variety of vocal sounds, as well as the word “hello.”
Then, the voices were digitally altered to be either slightly higher or slightly lower in pitch, resulting in a large variety of differently-pitched voices.
Then, the researchers got 88 men and 89 women to participate in the study.
There were four phases of the experiment.
PHASE 1: MONEY
- In phase 1, the participants were asked to think about a hypothetical trust game involving money.
- The trust game involved willingly giving another person $10 and trusting them to divide it evenly among you and another person.
- The participants were told: “You must select which person you trust to divide the money.”
- Then, participants heard a few of the original voice recordings, and selected the person they most trusted to give the money to.
PHASE 2: MATING-RELATED TRUST
- Participants heard a variety of voices, and answered the question, “Choose the voice that you think is more likely to cheat on you if you were their romantic partner.”
PHASE 3: GENERAL TRUST
- Participants heard a variety of voices, and answered the question, “Pick the voice that you think sounds more trustworthy.”
PHASE 4: ATTRACTIVENESS
- Participants heard a variety of voices, and answered the question, “Pick the voice that you think sounds more attractive.”
- All the voice presentations were randomized in all of the phases, and by the end, participants had listened to every voice.
- LOWER men’s voices were rated as significantly more attractive.
- People were significantly more likely to choose a HIGHER-pitched voice as more trustworthy with their money.
- People slightly favored HIGHER-pitched voices as more generally trustworthy.
- Female listeners rated LOWER-pitched men’s voices as more likely to cheat in a relationship, or steal another person’s mate.
What’s the take away from this study?
You can alter perceptions of your traits by changing the pitch of your voice.
Higher-pitched voices are rated as more trustworthy, particularly with other people’s money.
This would suggest that if your job requires asking for money, a higher-pitched sales pitch is the way to go.
Lower-pitched voices are rated as more attractive.
But they are also rated as more likely to cheat in a relationship, or steal another person’s mate.
O’Connor, J. J. M., Barclay, P. (2017). The influence of voice pitch on perceptions of trustworthiness across social contexts. Evolution and Human Behavior, 38, 506-512. Link: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1090513816300368