Vocal fry hurts women in the labor market

May 28, 2014

A form of speech known as vocal fry that is low in pitch and creaky sounding is increasingly common among young American women. Although previous research has suggested that this manner of speaking is associated with education and upward mobility, a new study indicates that vocal fry is actually perceived negatively, particularly in a labor market context.

The study, published online in the open-access journal PLOS ONE, indicates that women who speak in vocal fry are perceived as less attractive, less competent, less educated, less trustworthy, and ultimately less hirable.

The corresponding author of the study, Casey A. Klofstad, said these findings suggest that perceptions of speakers based on their voices can influence hiring preferences for female job candidates.

"Our results show that the vocal fry fad is a hindrance to who are trying to find work," said Klofstad, associate professor of political science in the University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences and corresponding author of the study. "Lack of experience due to their younger age, a historically poor economic environment, and sex discrimination are all barriers to success for this demographic. Given this context, our findings suggest that young women would be best advised to avoid using vocal fry when trying to secure employment."

For the study the researchers recorded seven young adult females ages 19-27 years, and seven young adult males ages 20-30 years, speaking the phrase "thank you for considering me for this opportunity" in both their normal tone of voice and in vocal fry. The pairs of recordings were then listened to by 800 (400 women and 400 men). After listening to each pair of voices participants were asked to choose whether the person speaking in vocal fry or normal voice was the more educated, competent, trustworthy, and attractive of the pair. The study participants were also asked which person they would hire. Participants selected the speakers of the normal voices over 80% of the time for all five judgments. The results also show that while perceptions of education, competence, trustworthiness, and attractiveness each affected willingness to hire, perceptions of trust had the greatest influence. That is, the study suggests that job candidates who use vocal fry are not preferred particularly because they are perceived as untrustworthy.

"Humans prefer vocal characteristics that are typical of population norms," Klofstad said. "While strange sounding voices might be more memorable because they are novel, humans find 'average' sounding voices to be more attractive. It is possible that speakers of vocal fry are generally perceived less favorably because vocal fry is accompanied by a dramatic reduction in voice pitch relative to normal speech."

Interestingly, the study also shows that while vocal fry is perceived negatively in both male and female speakers, women who use the affectation are perceived more negatively than men who use it. One explanation is that because women have higher voices than men on average, the lowering of voice pitch via vocal fry results in a sex-atypical voice pitch modulation for women.

"Previous studies show that when women try to lower the pitch of their voice they are perceived as less attractive," Klofstad said. "You could view the results we found as an extension of this to an economic context, whereby deliberate lowering of in a sex-atypical manner by through vocal fry results in negative perceptions by potential employers."

Explore further: People prefer leaders with more masculine voices, even in feminine leadership roles

More information: The study is titled "Vocal fry may undermine the success of young women in the labor market."

Related Stories

People prefer leaders with more masculine voices, even in feminine leadership roles

December 12, 2012
Male and female leaders with masculine voices are preferred by both men and women. However, even in leadership roles that are typically held by women, both sexes prefer women leaders with low-pitched voices, according to ...

Her voice is hot—his is not: Study examines what happens when we try to manipulate our voice to attract a mate

April 15, 2014
Trying to sound sexier? Sorry, guys, it seems you just don't have what it takes.

Body size conveyed by voice determines vocal attractiveness

April 24, 2013
Deep male voices and high-pitched female voices are perceived as more attractive because listeners gauge the speaker's body size from the frequency of their voice, according to research published April 24 in the open access ...

Voice prostheses can help patients regain their lost voice

October 24, 2012
Help is on the way for people who suffer from vocal cord dysfunction. Researchers are developing methods that will contribute to manufacturing voice prostheses with improved affective features. For example, for little girls ...

Recommended for you

Gene associated with schizophrenia risk regulates neurodevelopment

September 25, 2017
A gene associated with the risk of schizophrenia regulates critical components of early brain development, according to a new study led by researchers from Penn State University. The gene is involved in the translation of ...

For a better 'I,' there needs to be a supportive 'we'

September 25, 2017
If you're one of those lucky individuals with high motivation and who actively pursues personal growth goals, thank your family and friends who support you.

Child abuse affects brain wiring

September 25, 2017
Researchers from the McGill Group for Suicide Studies, based at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute and McGill University's Department of Psychiatry, have just published research in the American Journal of Psychiatry ...

Babies can learn that hard work pays off

September 21, 2017
If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. A new study from MIT reveals that babies as young as 15 months can learn to follow this advice. The researchers found that babies who watched an adult struggle at two different ...

Study links brain inflammation to suicidal thinking in depression

September 21, 2017
Patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) have increased brain levels of a marker of microglial activation, a sign of inflammation, according to a new study in Biological Psychiatry by researchers at the University of ...

Oxytocin turns up the volume of your social environment

September 20, 2017
Before you shop for the "cuddle" hormone oxytocin to relieve stress and enhance your social life, read this: a new study from the University of California, Davis, suggests that sometimes, blocking the action of oxytocin in ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.