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Imagine going for a job interview and the employer sitting across from you is truly intimidating. He’s big, bold, loud and mean-looking. What might this do to your confidence? To your mannerisms? To your way of speaking?
Our latest study has found that men and women generally speak with higher-pitched voices to interviewers they think are high in social status. However, we found that people who thought they themselves were quite dominant, were less likely to vary their pitch and generally spoke in a lower pitch when talking to someone of high social status. On the other hand, people who considered themselves to be prestigious talked in a measured way, not increasing or decreasing the volume of their voice very much.
Dominance and prestige are two ways to acquire high social status. Dominance means taking power by force and coercion (imagine a bully), while prestige is being freely given power due to one’s skills and merits (imagine your favourite teacher).
Men and women might speak with higher-pitched voices towards high status people because a low-pitched voice sounds dominant, particularly in men, while a high-pitched voice sounds relatively submissive. Using a high-pitched voice would signal to an employer that the interviewee is not a threat, and may serve to avoid confrontations.
And what vocal pitch would you bring to this role? LightField Studios / shutterstock