Analysis of the vocal profiles of male seduction: from exhibition to self-disclosure

Analysis of the vocal profiles of male seduction: from exhibition to self-disclosure – Statistical Data Included

Luigi Anolli

SEDUCTION COULD BE DEFINED as a strategic and intentional sequence of moves in which the primary motive is to attract (usually sexually) another person (usually of the opposite sex). The main goal of seduction is to build an intriguing bond with the partner with the aim of reaching an intimate relationship. Within this perspective, we could describe seduction as a timed flow of interactions that are characterized by different “steps” or unfolding phases (Morris, 1971).

According to Givens (1978) and to the biosocial model proposed by Kendrick and Trost (1987), the starting point of the seductive process is the identification–choice of a partner based on attraction and interests (first step). The a the seducer aims at establishing a contact with the potential partner through the strategies of exhibition and of catching his or her attention (second step). Finally, the seductive process moves into a phase of reciprocal approach, during which the aim is to establish an intimate relationship between the partners through the progressive reduction of their level of uncertainty. The sequence ends with the decision to maintain a stable bond (third step).

During the first 2 steps, seduction is characterized by the relational game of courtship, which consists of a “dance” of mutual moves and countermoves that are partially stereotyped and that predisposes the approach of the actors. In fact, the first aim of the seducer is to come out and “change status: from being anyone to being someone” (Baudrillard, 1979, p. 23). In other words, the first step of the seductive sequence is to draw attention to oneself in order to be chosen.

In this process, both partners are compelled to enhance and stress their qualities and their strong points as well as to hide their defects and mask their limitations in order to be attractive. The goal is to become the other person’s object of sexual desire. As a result, each partner tries during the courtship to appear better than he or she really is, and in some way, the enticing communication shows several points of contact with deceptive communication. This exhibition is a strong relational strategy because it implies being directly involved. It also entails an implicit declaration of willingness to begin an adventure, as well as settling a commitment and a relational responsibility toward a potential partner (Dindia, 2000).

Once the contact between the partners has been set up, the phase of reciprocal approach follows. As suggested by the Latin etymology of the term “seduction,” sed-ducere means “to take aside,” “to deviate.” In fact, in the seductive process the partners are inclined to “withdraw” as a basic condition for a growing intimacy (Duck, 1998). During this step they encourage each other to reveal themselves gradually through a progressive and selective exchange of information about personal history. This process of self-disclosure involves narrating one’s life to the other. Derlega, Metts, Petronio, and Margulis (1993) and Dindia (1994) point out in the uncertainty reduction theory that this sharing of reciprocal experiences allows for a gradual reduction in the degree of uncertainty between the partners and limits the risk of their becoming vulnerable too early in the seduction process.

During the course of this interactive game, seductive communication is influenced by nonverbal components. Unlike persuasion, seduction has not only to convince the partner, but also to attract him or her. Furthermore, the seducer must be able to act in an implicit and intriguing manner because it requires an attentive and sensitive process of negotiation to attract the other person. On the one hand, the nonverbal behavior must be effective in and capable of attracting the potential partner, and on the other hand, it must foster the processes of synchronizing mutual biopsychological rhythms.

In this field, there are a few studies that focus on differing nonverbal aspects of seduction. In addition to the dilation of the pupils, which is a clear signal of attraction and a precise psychophysiological signal of interest (Morris, 1997), the time and modality of eye contact that is typical of the seductive interaction in Western culture–for example, glimpsing, or looking obliquely at someone–have also been described (Givens, 1978; Simmel, 1909/1986). The greater the tendency to exchange glances and prolong the period of eye contact, the greater the chances are that there will be a reduction in the interpersonal distance between the partners. In particular, women in the West seek and cast more glances than do men, and in an alluring interaction, women rely more heavily on visual feedback than do men (Cupach & Metts, 1994).

Similarly, among facial expressions, the disguised shy smile (the “coy smile”) is a recurring hint in the seductive process, especially for women (Andersen, 1985; Coker & Burgoon, 1987). In addition, the reduction of proxemic space is an important means of gradually reducing interpersonal distance as well as communicating attraction by orienting the body toward the partner (Morris, 1997). In turn, Grammer (1989, 1990; Grammer, Kruck, & Magnusson, 1998) pointed Out that at the beginning of a meeting between a man and a woman who did not know each other previously, the degree of reciprocal interest fosters a considerable enhancement of the level of behavioral synchronization. This higher synchronization, defined by Grammer et al. as “the dance of the courtship” (p. 3), raises the perception of satisfaction and arouses the perception of a reciprocal understanding.

There are fewer studies that focus on the voice that is produced during the seductive game. In nearly all situations, the voice is an important medium of self-presentation as it provides a number of clues that make it possible to make inferences about the personality traits and qualities of the speaker (Addington, 1968; Layer, 1980). Furthermore, researchers have observed that the voice plays an important role in interpersonal attraction (stereotype of vocal attraction, Mallory & Miller, 1958; Scherer, 1972; Zuckerman, Hodgins, & Miyake, 1990). The fascinating voice is systematically associated with considerations of pleasantness and social desirability.

The research carried out in this field until now has been restricted to a perceptual analysis of the partner’s voice. These studies, which are based on the subjective perception of the voice during the seductive game, show that people generally resort to an “almost childish” (Zuckerman et al., 1990, p. 108) voice. This voice is associated with less power and more warmth and is interpreted as a sign of willingness to go on getting to know each other. This feature is referred to as “babyishness” by Montepare and Zebrowitz-McArthur (1987). Accordingly, Berry (1990) observed differences linked to gender in the way the voice is perceived–for instance, a seductive male voice is associated with the qualities of strength and dominance, while a seductive female voice is associated with warmth, affection, and kindness. These observations support the perceptual analysis carried out by Givens (1978) that describes the voice of the seducer as having a high pitch and low intensity, which is similar to the voice that adul ts use when they speak to children.

Consequently, the voice can be used to differentiate the nature of the ongoing interaction between partners. Within Western culture in a friendly interaction, the pitch of the voice is neutral, laughs are not frequent, and there are long silences; during courtship there is a remarkable increase in the number of laughs and hence interpersonal warmth, the speech is more animated, and the number of silences decrease; and in an intimate relationship, the pitch of the voice is lower, the speech is fluid, and there are fewer silences and more laughs (Koeppel, Montagne-Miller, O’Hair, & Cody, 1993).

Although these studies highlight the importance of the voice in the seductive interaction, the data about the paralinguistic features are quantitatively limited and qualitatively restricted to a perceptual analysis only. Furthermore, in the study of the voice, researchers have not considered the sequential or the temporal dimension of progressive approach in the construction of an intimate relationship, nor have they considered the conditions that are required for success (or failure) in the seductive game.

The general aim of this work was to analyze the suprasegmental features of the male voice during a seductive interaction compared with the characteristics of neutral speech. In particular, our aims were to (a) describe the suprasegmental variations according to the gradual relational approach between the partners (the processes of self-disclosure and intimacy), and (b) identify the suprasegmental differences between the successful seducers (those who succeeded in arranging a subsequent meeting with the partner) and the unsuccessful seducers (those who failed to do so).

We decided to focus on the male voice for reasons of ecological and cultural validity. In Mediterranean culture, even though women’s roles have changed dramatically in the past 30 years, there is still some reticence in the seductive performance by women in an experimental (and public) situation. On this basis, we believed that if we included women in the present study it would likely yield a set of biased results.

According to the data in the literature, it is possible to advance the following hypotheses: (a) seductive speech, unlike normal speech, is characterized by an increase in pitch, a slower rate of articulation, and a lower intensity; (b) during the seductive interaction, the pitch and intensity of the voice gradually decrease according to the levels of intimacy and confidence that are attained; and (c) successful seducers show a higher flexibility and variability in the modulation of their vocal features than do unsuccessful seducers.



Forty university students, 20 men and 20 women, took part in the research. The participants were between 20 and 27 years old (M = 23.1, SD = 2.3). They were from the middle class, and their parents had a more or less similar social position. In a preliminary phase we ascertained that the participants were not married, nor were they in a stable relationship at the time. The participants were not paid, nor did they receive any credit for their academic curriculum.

After we received the participants’ consent to take part in the research, we randomly paired them off according to the following criteria: The partners did not know each other; and in every pair, the man was the “seducer” and the woman the potential “seducee.” At this stage, we did not divulge the actual aims of the experiment as detailed in the procedure (see Appendix, which deals with the ethical issues that pertain to this experiment). Nineteen couples continued with the experimental situation to the end, and their protocols were considered valid for the aims of this study.


We administered three assessment scales, Questionnaire A, Questionnaire B, and Questionnaire C, at various stages during the experiment. In a preliminary phase of the random pairing, the men filled in Questionnaire A so that we could assess the level of their interest in and attraction to the woman with whom they had been paired. Questionnaire A consisted of seven items that were aimed at assessing the woman’s physical traits, her beauty, her voice, her way of moving, and her level of attractiveness in general. These are the “aesthetic” essential aspects that stimulate attraction in men (Taylor, Hoy, & Haley, 1996) because perceived physical attractiveness is the strongest predictor in arousing male seductive behavior (Grammer, 1990). Each item in the questionnaire was rated on a scale of I to 20, where 1 meant there was no attraction to the woman, and 20 meant that there was a very strong attraction to the woman. This preliminary test was successful (i.e., the man found the woman attractive) if the average s core for all items was 10 or higher.

At the end of the meeting, the man was asked to complete Questionnaire B, which we formulated on the basis of points suggested by Givens (1978) and Kendrick and Trost (1987). The questionnaire consisted of 15 items. Its purpose was to investigate the possible changes during the course of the interaction in the man’s perception of the attractiveness of the woman as well as to identify the sequence of the seductive moves used by the man.

Also toward the end of the meeting, we asked the women to complete Questionnaire C, which we drew up according to guidelines provided by Dindia (1994) and Duck (1998). The questionnaire consisted of 15 questions and its purpose was to assess the woman’s interest in and attention to the man with whom she had been paired, and to verify her interest in a subsequent meeting.


During the recruiting phase, we told the participants that we were studying (a) the formation of their first impressions of a person whom they had not known previously; and (b) the initial processes of the reciprocal acquaintance (see Appendix). After we had their preliminary consent and their commitment to take part in the research, we scheduled appointments with them at slightly different arrival times for the man and woman so that they would not meet or get to know each other before the experiment began.

The experiment was divided into four phases. During the first phase (observation and choice), the experimenter’s assistant led the woman into a room where she and the assistant spent a few minutes in informal conversation. The conversation was video-recorded without the participant’s awareness, and her male partner observed it in real time on a monitor in an adjacent room. At the end of this phase, which lasted 5 min, the man completed Questionnaire A. If the average score was 10 or more the experiment proceeded, if not, the man and woman were dismissed.

In the second phase of the experiment (meeting and seductive interaction), the assistant gave the man his task: To arrange a subsequent meeting with the woman. He was told he should use whatever seductive strategies he thought would be most effective to achieve this. The man’s goal was to say to the woman: “I would like to see you again” (target utterance). In this phase, the woman was still not yet aware of the aim of the research.

The man and woman then met in a third room where they had to engage in specific activities that were designed to gradually increase the level of interaction between them. First, they had to choose photographs that represented a university and that would stimulate a discussion about their own university experiences; second, they had to comment on photographs of celebrities taken from women’s magazines; and third, they had to have a conversation about how young people spend their spare time, especially in the evening.

In this way, the participants were given concrete and “natural” opportunities to foster a reciprocal acquaintance, dialogue, and exchange of ideas. The interactions lasted for an average of 31 min 40 s (SD = 5 min 35 s). The verbal production of the man during the first (observation and choice) and second (meeting and seductive interaction) phases was recorded on an audio-recorder.

In the third phase, at the end of the meeting (final feedback), the man and woman completed Questionnaire B and Questionnaire C, respectively. After the experiment was concluded, the assistant informed the woman separately of the true aim of the research, and the woman was again asked for her consent for us to use the protocol of the research in which she had participated. All the female participants gave their consent. The assistant then thanked the man and woman for their participation and set up an appointment with them for 1 month later to find out if they had met again after their initial contact.

The fourth and final phase (follow-up) took place about 1 month later when the assistant met separately with the participants to verify which couples had actually met again after the meeting and seduction interaction. We found that 9 couples out of 19 had met again at least once during the 1-month period.

The male participants of those couples that had met again were classified as “successful” seducers, whereas the other male participants were considered to have been “unsuccessful” seducers. Also during the follow-up, the assistant explained the general results of the study to the participants and clarified any further questions that they had.

Identification of the vocal data set. We extracted the set of vocal data that was needed for the acoustic analysis from the digital recording of the man’s speech. But before we acquired the protocols of the analysis, we carefully edited the stream of speech to eliminate all nonverbal signals such as sighs, coughs, laughs, and paper being rustled; every kind of noise; and every instance in which the partners spoke at the same time (Walbott, 1984).

We divided this set of data into (a) the baseline speech, which we extracted from the man’s speech in the first phase of the experiment in a neutral situation (mean duration = 40.20 s, SD = 5.31); (b) the target utterance, that is, the seductive invitation expressed as the standard phrase: “I would like to see you again;” and (c) seductive speech, which we divided into three speech units that corresponded to each one of the three temporal moments of the seductive interaction (Speech Unit A, the beginning of the seductive process; Speech Unit B, the middle part; and Speech Unit C, the final part). The mean duration for Speech Unit A was 24.65 s (SD = 3.66); for Speech Unit B, M = 26.57 s, SD = 4.76; and for Speech Unit C, M = 31.83 s, SD = 5.4.

After we had identified the vocal protocols in this way, we analyzed them sonographically with CSL (Computerised Speech Lab, model 4300 B, software version 5.X, Kay Elemetrics Corp.).

Extraction of the acoustic variables. We measured 11 dependent variables. To determine the dimension of time (segmentation into ins), we considered the rate of articulation, which we calculated as the ratio between the number of syllables and the duration of speech (syllables/s). For pitch, we measured the fundamental frequency ([F.sub.o]), which we extracted with the use of the spectral-clipping and zero-cross-analysis method according to parameters concerning the segmentation range and the length of the representational frame expressed in Hz. To determine the dimension of energy, we considered the intensity diagram that indicates the value in dB from the source of sound. On the basis of the extracted values for both parameters ([F.sub.o] and energy) we calculated the mean, the range [maximum value (gamma-+-) – minimum value (gamma-) = range], and the standard deviation.

We submitted the data to a participant-by-participant analysis as suggested by Ekman, O’Sullivan, Friesen, and Scherer (1991) to identify the vocal profiles and styles of the seducers. The analysis did not examine interparticipant variability–it considered only the variations within the same participant who effectively represented the statistical control of himself. Thus we could identify and describe groups (or categories) of participants through the analysis of their variations from the respective baseline values that were taken as parameters of reference.

This analysis consisted of (a) the identification of the differential values of every participant-for the 11 dependent variables, we calculated the differences between the absolute values of the seductive speech units and the absolute values of the baseline speech; (b) the determination of the value of the differential threshold for the construction of the categories of the vocal profiles-we considered as a threshold value twice the standard error, calculated for each of the 11 variables that we examined (Ekman et al., 1991); and (c) the definition of the categories of the vocal profiles as “participants+” (those who show positive differences that are higher than the threshold value) or “participants-” (those who show negative differences that are lower than the threshold value). The classification of the participants’ vocal profiles was carried Out by means of a combined application of the criteria as shown in Table 1.


Analysis of the Target Utterance

The percentage values of the distribution of participants in the vocal categories that were identified by the participant-by-participant analysis for the data of the target utterance are shown in Table 2.

The vocal category that was used most often while the target utterance was being delivered was a high pitch (in acoustical value, M = 156.32 Hz; gamma- = 179.69 Hz) and in particular, the modulated high voice (SD = 25.81 Hz). Regarding intensity, a loud voice was the main speech form (in acoustical value, M = 58.23 dB; gamma+ = 70.22 dB), while there was an equal distribution of the participants for the stable, variable, and medium voice. Statistical analysis based on the Mantel-Haenszel test confirmed a nonrandom distribution of the frequencies for both parameters, pitch: [chi square](4, n = 19) = 10.43, p < .02; intensity: [chi square](4, n = 19) = 8.20, p < .05. Finally, we see that while speaking the invitation utterance, 68.42 % of the participants spoke at a high rate (M = 8.97 syllables/s), and none spoke at a low rate. The chi-square test shows the significance of these differences, [chi square](2, n= 19)=25.48,p<.001.

Sequence of the Vocal Profiles of the Seducers

Table 3 shows the percentages of the distribution of participants in the different vocal categories in relation to the temporal sequence of the seductive interaction in the three moments–the beginning, the middle, and the end–that are being considered.

Most participants at the beginning of the seductive behavior (Speech Unit A) spoke in a higher voice (pitch) than they did in baseline speech, while only 15.79% lowered the pitch of their voices compared with that of their normal speech. Moreover, the participants were inclined to modulate their voices when they seduced–this applied to those who raised their pitch and to those who lowered it. On the contrary, in the middle of the seductive sequence (Speech Unit B), we observed a drop in the percentage of participants who spoke at a high pitch compared with those who spoke at a low or medium pitch. Furthermore, there was also a drop in the percentage of participants who used a modulated voice, and their pitch became more similar to the pitch of those who spoke in a monotone voice. In the final phase of the seductive interaction (Speech Unit C), the trend already observed in Speech Unit B was accentuated, and there was a further increase in the number of seducers who expressed themselves at a low pitch.

We found that 47.37% of the participants spoke in a monotone voice. We analyzed these data with the weighted least squares (WLS) methodology for the analysis of repeated measures of categorical data (Agresti, 1990, 1996). A one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) with repeated measures on the sequence factor (Speech Units A, B, and C), showed significant differences between the different levels of the factor sequence, Qw (2) = 8.06, p = .042.

There were interesting variations in voice intensity in all three steps of the seductive sequence. At the start (Speech Unit A) most participants spoke at a high-volume intensity, whereas only 21.05% of the participants spoke in a low-intensity voice. Furthermore, the stable voice and the variable voice were equally represented (5.26%) in the low intensity category. In the middle part (Speech Unit B) the situation was reversed and most participants (57.89%) used a low volume, and only 10.53% used strong intensity; in particular, 36.84% of the participants showed a variable soft voice. In the last part (Speech Unit C), most of the participants spoke at a lower volume than they did during normal speech, and they maintained the lower volume during the entire utterance, as is shown by the data concerning stability. We also analyzed these results with the WLS methodology. A one-way ANOVA with repeated measures on the sequence factor showed significant differences between the levels of this factor, Qw (2) = l0.l2, p = .03.

Finally, with reference to speed (rate of articulation), we found that at the start of the interaction (Speech Unit A) 5.26% of the participants spoke slowly, and the rate at which the remaining 94.74% spoke was evenly distributed between the medium and fast rates. In the middle part (Speech Unit B) there was a modest reduction in the percentage of participants who spoke at the intermediate rate compared with Speech Unit A, and an increase in the number of participants who spoke slowly. In contrast, there was an increase to 52.63% in the number of participants who spoke quickly in the final stage (Speech Unit C), compared with 47.37% in the fast category in Speech Units A and B. Within this parameter, the statistical analysis WLS with repeated measures on the sequence factor (Speech Units A, B, and C) showed significant differences between the levels of this factor, Qw (2) = 7.18, p = .049.

In summary, the participant-by-participant analysis highlighted the variability of the vocal profile of the seducer because it changed considerably during the phases of seductive interaction. At the start, most of the participants spoke louder and at a higher pitch compared with the values of those features in their baseline speech. In the second and third phases, their voices became gradually lower and weaker. On the other hand, the rate of articulation appeared to increase constantly compared with their baseline speech, and it increased even more during the last phase.

The Voice of the Successful Seducer

We further analyzed the data on the vocal profiles according to the degree of “efficacy” that the participants showed in their seductive interactions. Figure 1 shows the differences between the values in the various vocal categories of successful seducers and the unsuccessful seducers during the three phases of the seductive sequence. We carried out a qualitative analysis only, because the number of participants was limited.

There were two deeply different distributions of pitch during the initial stage of the seductive interaction (Speech Unit A). Whereas a majority of successful seducers used a high pitch and none used a low pitch, more than half of the unsuccessful seducers used a low or medium pitch. In Speech Unit B, the percentage of successful seducers who spoke at a high pitch dropped compared with the previous phase, and only 14.29% of these participants spoke at a low pitch. On the contrary, more than 90% of the unsuccessful seducers spoke in a low or medium pitch in Speech Unit B. This condition persisted into the final phase (Speech Unit C) for the unsuccessful seducers, whereas the successful seducers modified their voices even further as is reflected by the increase in the number of participants who used a low pitch in Speech Unit C.

As far as intensity (volume) is concerned, in Speech Unit A, most of the successful seducers spoke in a loud voice. On the contrary, only 4 1.67% of the unsuccessful seducers spoke loudly, and 25% spoke at a low volume. In the middle stage (Speech Unit B), the successful seducers reduced the intensity of their voices-in fact, only 14.29% continued to speak in a loud voice, whereas 42.86% spoke in a soft voice. Among the unsuccessful seducers, a greater percentage of the participants lowered the volume of their voices during Speech Unit B. In Speech Unit C, this trend was consolidated by the unsuccessful seducers, of whom 75% used a low-intensity (soft) voice. On the contrary, only 14.29% of the successful seducers used low-intensity speech during this phase, whereas 57.14% returned to speaking at a medium intensity.

There were considerable differences in the rates of articulation between the two groups of participants. In Speech Unit A, most of the successful seducers spoke quickly (a high rate of articulation) and none spoke slowly. On the other hand, 8.33% of the unsuccessful seducers spoke slowly and only 33.33% spoke quickly. In Speech Unit B, there was a sharp decrease in the rate of articulation among the successful seducers. Only 28.57% of these participants continued to speak quickly, whereas 14.29% spoke slowly. In contrast, there was an increase in the percentage of unsuccessful seducers who spoke quickly. In Speech Unit C, most of the successful seducers returned to speaking quickly, whereas in the group of unsuccessful seducers, the percentage of those who spoke quickly in Speech Unit B decreased slightly in favor of the participants who spoke at an intermediate rate.

In summary, the vocal patterns of the successful seducers differed markedly from those of the unsuccessful seducers in pitch, intensity, and the rate of articulation during the different phases of the seductive interaction. The successful seducers showed a greater variability in their vocal profiles during the course of the seductive interaction than did the unsuccessful seducers.


The results of this study show some interesting trends in the vocal modalities that are used during the seductive interaction. Nevertheless, before we discuss the data, it is necessary to point out some limitations in the present research. Their evaluation will allow us to define the boundaries of this study better and to qualify its heuristic value.

First, the analysis focused exclusively on the vocal features of the male partner. We did this because of our interest in the vocal styles of seduction that are used by men, who, in the Mediterranean culture, tend to be assigned the more active role of seducer. We focused on the male partner to avoid impairing the ecological credibility of the instructions and the seductive situation. It is likely that this would have been jeopardized if, within the Mediterranean culture, we had asked the female partner to play a role that was culturally alien to her, and perhaps even embarrassing.

Second, and in our opinion the main limitation of the present work, is that we decided to focus on only one of the two partners in the seductive sequence. It is obvious that seduction is an interaction between two people in a game of mutual “attracting” and “being attracted.” Once the game has started, the female partner also plays an active role depending on her sensitivity, interests, expectations, and past experiences. Her role is clearly a variable in the seductive game. However, for the reasons given previously, we considered the female partner a constant in this study.

Nevertheless, within these boundaries, the consistency of the results allows us to contribute to the study of certain aspects of seductive phenomena that are worthy of attention. Furthermore, the results verify the theoretical models proposed by Givens (1978) and Kendrick and Trost (1987). They also point out in empirical terms specific aspects of synchronization (the rate of articulation, the pitch, and the intensity of the voice) during the courtship, as Grammer (1989) and Grammer et al. (1998) hypothesized.

As expected, the results show that the main vocal style in seductive speech produces a vocal profile that differs significantly from the one used in normal speech: The seducer speaks at a higher pitch, at a higher intensity, and at an accelerated rate of articulation when he invites the partner to meet him again (i.e., speaks the target utterance), compared with his normal speech.

The increase in the mean value of the pitch supports studies by Givens (1978) and Zuckerman, Hodgins, and Miyake (1990) about the use of the “childish voice” by seducers. A vocal feature that is reminiscent of childlike speech (“baby ishness”) is perceived as warmer and more attractive, and it is seen as a signal of willingness on the part of the seducer and an implicit demand to advance the relationship. Moreover, the high intensity and the faster rate of speech are typical of a full and tense voice (Scherer, 1989), which is associated with a bright and interesting person-someone who is strong and vital, emotionally committed, and involved in the task that he is carrying out (Addington, 1968).

These remarks, if considered in isolation, may validate the existence of a stereotypical seductive voice, as if there were a fixed, specific, and unchangeable prosodic pattern that had to be adhered to during seduction. However, the analysis of the temporal sequence of the seductive interaction by the male partners shows that seduction requires a flexible and suitable use of the voice that draws on a wide range of vocal profiles. The seducer has to be competent in continually modulating his vocal profile according to the conditional flow as he interacts with the partner.

At the beginning of the seductive interaction, the seducer speaks mainly with a highly modulated voice, but in the subsequent phases of the interaction he noticeably lowers the pitch and speaks in a low, monotonous voice that is perceived as more tender (Anolli & Ciceri, 1997). Similarly, the seducer uses a loud (high intensity) and variable voice in the initial phase of the courtship, but the main vocal profile is weak and stable in the subsequent phases.

These vocal changes mean that the male participants use an “orotund” voice to “impress” the potential female partner in the starting phase of the seductive interaction. The orotund voice suggests strength, vitality, enthusiasm, sociability, virility, and confidence (Addington, 1968; Brown & Bradshaw, 1985; Pittam, 1987; Scherer, 1978), so the qualities that are likely to raise interest in and the attention of the female partner are at stake here.

We can define this phase as vocal exhibition because the male participants tried to project an attractive image of themselves: They had to be noticed in order to be chosen. This vocal profile is especially useful for the seducers to demonstrate their intention to “establish a contact” with the potential partner (Kendrick & Trost, 1987). It is the moment in which the seducer tries to “change social status: from being anyone, to being someone” (Baudrillard, 1979, p. 23).

The exhibition is played out in a relatively narrow psychological space that is defined on the one hand by the desire to attract the partner, and on the other hand, by the need to respect her freedom to become the object of desire. Consequently, to reach the goal of the enticement, it is necessary for the seducer to leave the partner some degree of freedom and room for movement.

However, this initial phase of “approach” cannot last too long because prolonged exhibition behavior could become boring or irritating as it can be perceived as arrogant and domineering, or it could have the opposite effect and be seen as an indication of insecurity and weakness.

What we are seeing is a paradoxical exhibition because, though explicit, it is not declared-it is evident, but not formalized. Because the individual himself is at stake during the seduction, he cannot risk a flat refusal from the potential partner. If this were to occur, it could damage the seducer’s self-image and lower his self-esteem. Consequently, the seductive exhibition should not exceed certain limits and it should not become so extreme that it avoids the intrusiveness of the partner’s subjectivity. In this case, the partner could protest and oppose, more or less, decisive forms of rejection.

For this reason, the seducer’s voice changes noticeably in the subsequent phases and becomes lower in pitch and weaker in volume in an effort to encourage a reciprocal response and to exude warmth, tenderness, and affability. This voice denotes a more relaxed and intimate situation, likely to foster the processes of revealing of one’s history to the other partner, within a relation of mutual confidence. Within this perspective, our results are in agreement with those obtained by Givens (1978), who noted the existence of a warm and reassuring voice in the advanced phase of the seductive interaction. Moreover, tenderness is expressed at a constantly weak volume and is modulated to a lower pitch during speech (Anolli & Ciceri, 1997).

We observed a faster rate of articulation throughout the seductive interaction compared with the rate during normal speech. This phenomenon could be understood in context of the extent to which interest is aroused in the seductive interaction. Beside the sexual aspect associated with the courtship, other important psychological aspects such as self-esteem, self-image, and expectancy are also involved. An acceleration in the rate of articulation is also seen as a sign of competence and self-confidence (Brown, 1980; Brown, Strong, & Rencher, 1974).

The results of this study suggest that the seductive game is played out in a variety of communicative patterns, at least as far as the vocal channel is considered. This plurality of prosodic profiles allows the male partner to modulate his intention moment by moment during the ongoing interaction with the partner. A possible outcome of this communicative complexity is that there are some individuals who are better than others at managing the different communicative registers to reach the goal of courtship. Our data support this hypothesis, although we need to proceed with caution because of the small number of successful seducers.

In general, the successful seducers differed from the unsuccessful seducers in that they had a greater flexibility in the way in which they modulated the prosodic aspects of their voices than did the unsuccessful seducers. In fact, regarding pitch, the successful seducers generally showed more substantial changes in shifting from a highly modulated profile in the initial phase of the seductive interaction to a low monotone profile in the final phase, whereas the unsuccessful seducers maintained a medium value of pitch during each phase of the interaction.

There was a similar discrepancy between the successful and unsuccessful seducers in relation to the intensity of the voice. The successful seducers appeared to be more competent in varying] the gradations of the suprasegmental aspects of intensity than were the unsuccessful seducers. The successful seducers began the interaction with a high (loud), variable volume then markedly lowered the intensity (volume) of their voices in the subsequent phases of the interaction. They could be considered to be “variable participants” because they were more skilled than were the unsuccessful seducers in modifying the volume of their voices not only during the course of the entire interaction, but also within each phase of the interaction. They could therefore rely more on an orotund voice when the circumstances required competence, confidence, and enthusiasm early in the interaction. They could, however, also use a medium-and low-intensity voice to transmit tenderness and warmth in the subsequent phases of the seductive interaction. On the other hand, the unsuccessful seducers appeared as “stable participants” because they spoke at a consistently low volume during all the phases of the interaction.

Likewise, the successful seducers showed a greater variability in their rates of articulation than did those who were unsuccessful. In general, the successful seducers paid more attention to and were more nuanced in modulating the prosodic aspects of their voices than were the unsuccessful seducers. It is not only a matter of making one’s voice attractive and warm but also one of interactive competence. One of the central aspects of seductive communication is at stake here: To focus undivided attention on the partner and to make her feel exclusive in the game of role reversion, in which the one who appears to be seduced is the one who seduces.

We can interpret the results of the successful seducers according to the theory of the local management of communication (O’Keefe & Lambert, 1995). The successful seducers showed that in all situations they possessed a stronger ability to regulate the features of their voices while they were interacting with a partner. It is not only a matter of planning and programming the communication of a message, it is also necessary to know how to choose the most effective move at that moment; to be able to optimize the emotional, cognitive, and relational resources available at that time; as well as to process the hints offered by the partner and to turn them into opportunities.

The unsuccessful seducers were less variable during the seductive interaction. Their relatively stable voice, which was characterized by a generally low pitch and weak intensity, could be described as a “flat” voice, with a more limited number of oscillations and variations. This type of voice seems to be associated with shy and depressed people, or with people who would prefer to be ignored rather than be heard and noticed. The fixed nature of their vocal profiles does not appear to be suitable for the seductive game, in which it is necessary “to yield” to the mood of the partner.

In conclusion, the seductive interaction is not a uniform and homogeneous phenomenon, but a flexible communicative process that draws on the many and varied vocal profiles that correspond to the many and varied communicative intentions such as exhibition, approaching the partner, deepening reciprocal knowledge, and attaining a level of intimacy. We intend to pursue this line of study further, given the limits of the present research. In particular, it would be worthwhile to analyze the female partners’ reciprocal moves of approach or withdrawal by monitoring the prosodic aspects of their voices during the seductive interaction.


Ethical Issues Pertaining to This Experiment

We followed closely the norms of the American Psychological Association that are included in Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct (12/01/92). In particular:

(a.) The protocol of the research was submitted to and approved by the Center for Communication Psychology at the Catholic University of Milan (Italy), as required by Point 6.09 (Institutional Approval);

(b.) We followed Point 6.12 (Dispensing With Informed Consent) because the research was such that we did not want to get the participants’ previous informed consent. We consulted with Professor Fernando Dogana, the head of the Department of Psychology at the Catholic University of Milan, and Professor Giuseppe Riva, an expert in methodology, on the matter;

(c.) We followed Point 6.15 (Deception in Research) with regard to the use of deception in protocol because, given the particular topic and circumstances of the research, we did not want to divulge the actual aims of the study to the female participants before the experiment began. We did, however, explain the aims and the design of the research to them at the conclusion of the experimental session (it lasted for an average of 31 mm and 40 s), as detailed in the article;

(d.) At the end of the session, we obtained the signed informed consent from all the participants (men and women), as required by Point 6.11 (Informed Consent to Research); and

(e.) At the end of the follow-up appointment we provided ample opportunity for the participants to obtain any relevant information about the nature, results, and conclusions of the research, as indicated in Point 6.18 (Providing Participants With Information about the Study). All the participants found the research natural and in line with the cultural standards of the Mediterranean culture.



Criteria for the Participant-by-Participant Analysis Referring to

Acoustic Parameters

Acoustic parameters

Participants [F.sub.o] Energy

Participants+ High-pitched Loud

voice voice

Participants- Low-pitched Soft

voice voice

Participants= Intermediate Intermediate

voice voice

Participants+ Variable Variable

voice voice

Participants- Monotone Stable

voice voice

Participants= Intermediate Intermediate

voice voice

Participants Criteria

Participants+ Positive differences greater

than twice the standard

error for the mean and

for one (or both) of the two

variables of range (maximum

and range amplitude).

Participants- Negative differences

greater than twice the

standard error for the

mean and for one (or both)

of the two variables of

range (maximum and range


Participants= Positive or negative

differences lower than

twice the standard error

for the mean and for

one (or both) of the

two variables of range

(maximum and range


Participants+ Positive differences greater

than twice the standard

error for the values of

standard deviation.

They should not be

combined with a range

amplitude of the

opposite sign.

Participants- Negative differences greater

than twice the standard error

for the values of standard

deviation. They should

not becombined with a range

amplitude of

the opposite sign.

Participants= Positive or negative

differences lower than

twice the standard error

for the values of standard

deviation. They should not

be combined with a range

amplitude of the

opposite sign.

Participants Time

Participants+ Fast rate of articulation

Participants- Slow rate of articulation

Participants= Intermediate rate of


Participants Criteria

Participants+ Positive differences greater than twice

the standard error for the values of

rate of articulation.

Participants- Negative differences greater than twice

the standard error for the values of

rate of articulation.

Participants= Positive or negative differences lower

than twice the standard error for the

values of rate of articulation.

Note. [F.sub.o] = frequency.


Percentages of the Acoustic Parameters for the Target Utterance

Acoustic parameter/

vocal category Intermediate Variable Monotone Total


High 10.53 31.58 5.26 47.37

Low 10.53 5.26 5.26 21.05

Intermediate 10.53 10.53 10.53 31.58

Total 31.59 47.36 21.05 100.00

Intermediate Stable Variable Total


Soft 0.00 10.53 10.53 21.05

Loud 21.05 10.53 15.79 47.37

Intermediate 10.53 15.79 5.26 31.58

Total 31.59 36.85 31.57 100.00

Slow Intermediate Fast Total

Rate of articulation 0.00 31.58 68.42 100.00

Note. The totals do not add up because of rounding.


Percentages of the Acoustic Parameters for Each Phase of the Seductive

Time Sequence

Speech unit


category A B C

Pitch (range ([F.sub.0])


Intermediate 15.79 0.00 15.79

Variable 36.84 21.05 5.26

Monotone 5.26 5.26 0.00

Total 57.89 26.32 21.05


Intermediate 5.26 5.26 10.53

Variable 10.53 0.00 0.00

Monotone 0.00 26.32 31.58

Total 15.79 31.58 42.11


Intermediate 15.79 21.05 10.53

Variable 0.00 15.79 10.53

Monotone 10.53 5.26 15.79

Total 26.32 42.11 36.84

Total 100.00 100.00 100.00

Energy (range intensity)


Intermediate 10.53 5.26 15.79

Variable 5.26 36.84 36.84

Stable 5.26 15.79 0.00

Total 21.05 57.89 52.63


Intermediate 15.79 5.26 0.00

Variable 10.53 0.00 5.26

Stable 26.32 5.26 5.26

Total 52.63 10.53 10.53


Intermediate 10.53 15.79 5.26

Variable 15.79 15.79 10.53

Stable 0.00 0.00 21.05

Total 26.32 31.58 36.84

Total 100.00 100.00 100.00

Rate of articulation

Slow 5.26 21.05 21.05

Intermediate 47.37 31.58 26.32

Fast 47.37 47.37 52.63

Total 100.00 100.00 100.00

Note. The totals do not add up because of rounding.

Manuscript received December 30, 2000

Revision accepted for publication August 30, 2001


Addington, D. W. (1968). The relationship of selected vocal characteristics to personality perception. Speech Monographs, 35, 492-503.

Agresti, A. (1990). Categorical data analysis. New York: Wiley.

Agresti, A. (1996). An introduction to categorical data analysis. New York: Wiley.

Andersen, P. A. (1985). Nonverbal immediacy in interpersonal communication. In A. W. Siegman & S. Feldstein (Eds.), Multichannel integrations of nonverbal behavior (pp. 1-36). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Anolli, L., & Ciceri, R. (1997). La voce delle etnozioni [The voice of emotions]. Milan: Angeli.

Baudrillard, J. (1979). De la seduction [About seduction]. Paris: Galiee.

Berry, D. S. (1990). Vocal attractiveness and vocal babyishness: Effects on stranger, self, and friend impressions. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 14, 141-153.

Brown, B. L. (1980). Effects of speech rate on personality attribution and competency evaluations. In H. Giles, W. P. Robinson, & P. M. Smith (Eds.), Language: Social psychological perspectives (pp. 293-300). Oxford, UK: Pergamon Press.

Brown, B. L., & Bradshaw, J. M. (1985). Toward a social psychology of voice variations. In H. Giles & R. N. St. Clair (Eds.), Recent advances in language, communication, and social psychology (pp. 144-181). London: Eribaum.

Brown, B. L., Strong, W. J., & Rencher, A. C. (1974). Fifty-four voices from two: The effects of simulation manipulations of rate, mean fundamental frequency and variance of fundamental frequency on ratings of personality from speech. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 55, 313-318.

Coker, D. A., & Burgoon, J. K. (1987). The nature of conversational involvement and nonverbal encoding patterns. Human Communication Research, 13, 463-494.

Cupach, W., & Metts, S. (1994). Facework. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Derlega, V. J., Metts, S., Petronio, S., & Margulis, S. T. (1993). Self-disclosure. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Dindia, K. (1994). The intrapersonal–interpersonal dialectical process of self-disclosure. In S. Duck (Ed.), Understanding relationship processes 1V The dynamics of relationships (pp. 27-57). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Dindia, K. (2000). Sex differences in self-disclosure, reciprocity of self-disclosure, and self-disclosure and liking: Three meta-analyses reviewed. In S. Petronio (Ed.), Balancing the secrets of private disclosures. LEA’s communication series (pp. 21-35). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Duck, S. (1998). Human relationships. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Ekman, P., O’Sullivan, M., Friesen, W.V., & Scherer, K. R. (1991). Face, voice and body in detecting deceit. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 15, 25-135.

Givens, D. B. (1978). The nonverbal basis of attraction: Flirtation, courtship, and seduction. Psychiatry, 41, 346-359.

Grammer, K. (1989). Human courtship behavior: Biological basis and cognitive processing. In A. E. Rasa, C. Vogel, & E. Vol and (Eds.), The socio-biology of sexual and reproductive strategies (pp.147-l69). London: Chapman & Hall.

Grammer, K. (1990). Strangers meet: Laughter and nonverbal signs of interest in opposite-sex encounters. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior 14, 209-236.

Grammer, K., Kruck, B. K., & Magnusson, M. S. (1998). The courtship dance: Patterns of nonverbal synchronization in opposite-sex encounters. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 22, 3-29.

Kendrick, D. T., & Trost, M. R. (1987). A biosocial theory of heterosexual relationships. In K. Kelley (Ed.), Females, males and sexuality: Theories and research (pp. 59-100). Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Koeppel, L. B., Montagne-Miller, Y, O’Hair, D., & Cody, M. J. (1993). Friendly? Flirting? Wrong? In P. J. Kalbfleisch (Ed.), Interpersonal communication: Evolving interpersonal relationships (pp. 13-32). Hillsadale, NJ: Eribaum.

Laver, J. (1980). The phonetic description of voice quality. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Mallory, E. B., & Miller, V. R. (1958). A possible basis for the association of voice characteristics and personality traits. Speech Monographs, 25, 255-260.

Montepare, J. M., & Zebrowitz-McArthur, L. (1987). Perception of adults with childlike voices in two cultures. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 23, 331-349.

Morris, D. (1971). Intimate behaviour. London: Jonathan Cape.

Morris, D. (1997). The human sexes: A natural history of man and woman. London: Network Books.

O’Keefe, B. J., & Lambert, B. L. (1995). Managing the flow of ideas: A local management approach to message design. In B. R. Burleson (Ed.), Communication yearbook 18(pp. 54-82). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Pittam, J. (1987). The long-term spectral measurement of voice quality as a social marker: A review. Language and Speech, 30, 1-12.

Scherer, K. R. (1972). Judging personality from voice: A cross-cultural approach to an old issue in interpersonal perception. Journal of Personality, 40, 191-210.

Scherer, K. R. (1978). Inference rules in personality attribution from voice quality: The loud voice of extroversion. European Journal of Social Psychology, 8, 467-487.

Scherer, K. R. (1989). Vocal correlates of emotional arousal and effective disturbance. In H. Wagner & A. Manstead (Eds.), Handbook of social psychophysiology (pp. 165-197). Chichester, UK: Wiley.

Simmel, G. (1986). Die Koketterie. [The flirtation]. Berlin, Germany: Wagenbach. (Original work published 1909)

Taylor, R. E., Roy, M. G., & Haley, E. (1996). How French advertising professionals develop creative strategy. Journal of Advertising, 25, 1-14.

Walbott, H. G. (1984). Audiovisual recording: Procedures, equipment and troubleshooting. In K. R. Scherer & P. Ekman (Eds.), Approaches to emotion (pp. 542-579). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Zuckerman, M., Hodgins, H. S., & Miyake, K. (1990). The vocal attractiveness stereotype: Replication and elaboration. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 14, 97-112.

This research was funded by a contribution from Ferrero Foundation (Alba, Italy) and was carried out at the Center for Communication Psychology at the Catholic University of Milan.

Address correspondence to Luigi Anolli, Dipartimenro di Psicologia, Universita Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Largo Getnelli, 1 20123, Milano, Italy; (e-mail).

COPYRIGHT 2002 Heldref Publications

COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group