“Yesterday did the kindergarten children watch television after breakfast?”
Although that sentence makes no sense, to a pair of Texas A&M University researchers the phrase might reveal how men and women interact when it comes having babies.
In a study published in the International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, biologist Neal Latman and speech scientist Larry Barnes challenged the assumption that a woman’s voice changes over the course of her menstrual cycle, that her tone became more seductive during ovulation.
Earlier studies reported that a woman’s voice does alter, and this change occurs when she is ovulating.
Men recognize the change and respond, studies concluded.
Though more research is needed, the new study suggests that non-verbal cues may be the real motivator responsible for the upswing in sexual activity. The study lists the basics of flirting as possible culprits – eye contact, body language and facial expressions.
“In biology, we have what we call biological imperatives,” Latman said. “One of the biological imperatives is to reproduce, obviously.”
Scientists already know that a female is more sexually active when she is ovulating, but they have been unable to determine how a man knows when is the best time to reproduce.
The woman is “the driving controller because she’s the one who can only produce an egg at one specific time,” Latman said.
According to Latman, there is the “frat boy” mentality to sex – have sex because you can, it feels good and she’s willing. However biologically, sex is meant to make babies, and being intimate comes at a high risk, he said.
The act takes a lot of energy and can leave the male vulnerable to a lurking predator.
To test the voice change hypothesis, the researchers asked 35 women to track their menstrual cycle. Over five weeks, they were asked to come into the lab and have their voice recorded and analyzed.
In earlier studies, researchers had asked women to speak in single-syllable words, not a complete sentence. However, women were asked to read a full sentence for the Texas A&M study.
The technology measured 34 different characteristics of a woman’s voice. The researchers identified eight specific voice characteristics that were most likely to convey a message of intimacy but used a computer analysis to measure actual changes.
In previous studies, men participated in the research to assess and perceive changes in women’s voices. They were asked which voices they found more attractive and rated them.
Latman said their new methodology was meant to take the subjectivity out of interpreting voice changes.
The change the Barnes and Latman were looking for was nothing like the violent change boys experience in the eighth grade. This is more subtle and subliminal.
Milan Bagchi, professor of Molecular and Integrative Physiology at the University of Illinois, said he isn’t surprised by the study results. He said that a voice change is most often associated with young men.
“I don’t know of a similar phenomenon in the female,” Bagchi said.
He added that testosterone is the only hormone that has been shown to affect the larynx.
Latman says the key to the success of this study is in part due to the fact that Latman and his co-author Barnes come from different fields of science. Latman is an associate professor of biology at the university, while Barnes is an assistant professor of communication disorders.
“We made a perfect team to look at this particular issue,” Latman said.