Women who speak with “vocal fry” — a trendy tone of voice that is low-pitched and creaky-sounding — are considered less trustworthy and less hirable, according to a new study published in the journal PLOS ONE.
Vocal fry has become increasingly popular among young women, and earlier research has even suggested that this type of speech is associated with higher education and status. The newest findings, however, reveal that vocal fry can be a detriment to a woman seeking a job.
“Our results show that the vocal fry fad is a hindrance to young women who are trying to find work,” said study author Casey A. Klofstad, Ph.D., associate professor of political science in the University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences.
“Lack of experience due to their younger age, a historically poor economic environment, and sex discrimination are all barriers to labor market 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, researchers recorded seven young adult women (ages 19-27 years), and seven young adult men (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.
Both the regular and vocal fry recordings were then listened to by 800 study participants (400 women and 400 men).
After listening to the recordings, volunteers 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. They were also asked which person they would hire.
Participants chose the normal voices more than 80 percent of the time in all five categories. The findings also show that while perceptions of education, competence, trustworthiness, and attractiveness each affected willingness to hire, perceptions of trust had the greatest influence. In other words, the job candidates who used vocal fry were not chosen particularly because they were 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.”
The study found that while vocal fry is considered a negative attribute in both male and female speakers, women who use it are perceived more negatively than men. One possible explanation for this is because women have higher voices than men on average.
“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 voice pitch in a sex-atypical manner by women through vocal fry results in negative perceptions by potential employers.”
Source: University of Miami