The ‘Boyfriend Voice,’ Explained

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It happens whenever your girlfriend calls: The pitch of your voice goes up and your tone softens.

We jokingly call it the “boyfriend voice.” You do it unconsciously, but if your buddies are around when you answer the phone, they’ll call you out on it.

But here’s the thing: Your friends probably do it, too, according to David Puts, Ph.D., an associate professor of anthropology at Penn State University.

It’s an evolutionary response for men to calmly raise their vocal pitch when speaking to a member of the opposite sex, he says. It conveys tenderness, trustworthiness, and lack of aggression. (And you do the same thing around kids, he adds.)

Your boyfriend voice may sound especially meek to your buddies’ ears because they’re accustomed to your “bro voice,” explains Puts.

When a guy wants to feel physically dominant over another male, he lowers his voice—much like an animal may puff up his fur during a fight to look bigger and more threatening, he says. Whether you realize it or not, that’s probably the pitch you take when speaking to your friends or other males.

Some guys may even alternate between high and low tones when speaking to a female.

This “sing-songy” approach allows you to signal masculinity (low tone) and gentleness (high tone), according to a Columbian study that analyzed men’s voices when speaking to gorgeous women.

A little vocal variety is also more engaging than a flat tone, so it keeps the girl you’re trying to woo interested, says study author Juan David Leongómez, Ph.D., a psychologist at Columbia’s Universidad El Bosque and Universidad de La Sabana.

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