Preference for candidates with deeper voice

by Human Capital07 May 2012

When asked to pick a hypothetical political candidate on the basis of their voice, voters consistently chose the person with the deeper voice, a new US-based study has found.

According to research published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B the gender of candidates played less of a role in the decision making process than previously thought and it was candidates with deeper voices – male or female – that voters preferred. “Our results raise the possibility that the electability of female candidates could be influenced by the fact that women tend to have higher-pitched voices than men,” Dr Casey Klofstad from the University of Miami said.

Klofstad added that women continue to be vastly under-represented in leadership positions across the globe, and commented that gender discrimination is an obvious cause of the under-representation of women as leaders. “Our results suggest that biological differences between the sexes, and our responses to those differences, could potentially be an additional factor to consider,” he said.

Research participants were given voice samples and asked to rate properties of the voices they heard, nominating a score for each voice on factors such as competence and trustworthiness. The results of this test indicated that the selection of leaders is often made based on impressionistic judgments, and voice perception could certainly be a factor that voters take into account.

Implications for HR: Be aware of common interviewing biases

While leaps and bounds have been achieved in bringing awareness of bias to the forefront of the candidate selection process, there are common problems that interviewers continue to run into when they allow biases to get in the way. Are you guilty of any of the following?

Forming an opinion about how people of a given gender, religion, race, appearance, or other characteristic think, act, respond, or would perform the job – without any evidence that this is the case.

Inconsistency in questioning
Asking different questions of each candidate leads to a skewed assessment of who would best perform the job. Questions designed to get particular information about a specific candidate are only appropriate in the context of a core set of questions asked of all candidates.

First impressions
An interviewer might make a snap judgement about someone based on their first impression – positive or negative – that clouds the entire interview. For example, letting the fact that the candidate is wearing out-of-the-ordinary clothing or has a heavy regional/foreign accent take precedence over the applicant’s knowledge, skills, or abilities.

Negative emphasis
This involves rejection of a candidate based on a small amount of negative information – a common occurrence. Research has indicated that interviewers give unfavourable information twice the weight of favourable information.

Halo/horn effect
The“halo” effect occurs when an interviewer allows one strong point about the candidate to overshadow or have an effect on everything else. For instance, knowing someone went to a particular university might be looked upon favourably. Everything the applicant says during the interview is seen in this light. (“Well, she left out an important part of the answer to that question, but, she must know it, she went to XYZ University”). The “horn” effect is just the opposite – allowing one weak point to influence everything else.

Nonverbal bias
Undue emphasis might be placed on nonverbal cues that have nothing to do with the job, such as loudness or softness of voice, or the type of handshake given.

Contrast effect
Stronger candidates who interview after weaker ones may appear more qualified than they are because of the contrast between the two. Note taking during the interview and a reasonable period of time between interviews may alleviate this.



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