“The results are in and you are not the father.” We’ve all seen these dramatic cheating revelations play out on TV, but as it turns out, you don’t need Jerry Springer or Maury to confirm your sneaking suspicions that your significant other is cheating. According to one new study, just listening to the tone of your partner’s voice could give you answers.
The study, published in Evolutionary Psychology, says listening to tone is key when confronting a partner you think is cheating. While pitch refers to the high or low register of a voice, tone speaks more to the fullness or shrillness of a spoken phrase. “Evidence suggests that many physical, behavioral, and trait qualities can be detected solely from the sound of a person’s voice,” wrote the study’s authors, Susan Hughes and Marissa Harrison.
To test their theory, the scientists gathered 152 undergraduate students to take part in their analysis: 64 men and 88 women who all identified as heterosexual. Each student was subjected to recordings of other people’s voices as they tried to determine based on their tone which lovers had cheated in a relationship and which ones had not.
Nearly half of the voice samples had admitted to cheating in a monogamous relationship, while the others remained completely loyal. In most tests, the undergrads were able to correctly determine which voices belonged to cheaters, even when the participants’ voices were manipulated to higher and lower pitches. The results lean toward a connection between vocal tone and infidelity, but the authors admit, “While we cannot exactly pinpoint all the features about a voice that our perceptual system is using to make this assessment, we know that pitch plays a role but does not represent the entire picture.”
Elsewhere in the study, they elaborated some more on possible weak points:
There could be a host of possible vocal parameters beyond those measured in this study that may be responsible for ‘leaking’ information about one’s history of infidelity, as demonstrated from studies examining vocal emotion expression. Other vocal cues such as clarity of articulation may have also contributed to perceptions of infidelity. For example, masculine men tend to display less clarity in their speech and show phonetic patterns indicative of masculinity, which in turn could be associated with infidelity threat.
Obviously, this needs to be taken with a grain of salt, but it’s interesting to consider that our intuitions about our partners’ behavior and speech really could be giving us the answers we need. At the end of the day, this is what the researchers have to say about their findings:
These findings expand upon the idea that the human voice may be of value as a cheater detection tool and very thin slices of vocal information are all that is needed to make certain assessments of others…. Since we controlled for voice attractiveness, voice pitch and other acoustic measures, and a variety of features related to mate value…this effect was not dependent upon obvious vocal cues that may signal a speaker’s higher mate value or on features to suggest the person may have had more sexual opportunity to have affairs.”