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Simple Jury Persuasion: Channel James Earl Jones

Friday, September 30, 2011
posted by Rita Handrich

Oh that deep uniquely resonant voice! Whether reading Edgar Allen Poe or reciting Justin Bieber lyrics this voice is instantly recognizable. We remember it without even trying. Especially if we are women. Yes. If you have a deep male voice, you have an edge with (heterosexual) female jurors. If your expert or fact witness has a deep male voice—be grateful. Like the ‘tilt your head’ entry in our Simple Jury Persuasion series—this is no joke!

Researchers displayed slides of inanimate objects (like a microscope or a photograph of a fish). While the slide was shown, participants either heard a male or female voice naming the object (“fish” or “microscope”). In the first study, the voices were manipulated electronically to be deeper or higher (that is, deeper male voice, higher male voice, deeper female voice, higher female voice) in their reading of the object names for the various slides.

Then participants were shown slides with two pictures (the fish they had seen, and a similar but non-identical fish, for example) and asked which object/photograph they had seen before. Participants reported they preferred the male voices that had been made deeper by the researchers. They also remembered more of the objects accurately when the objects had been named in the deeper male voice. (There was no difference in object recall between the higher and lower female voices.) A second study matched the results of the first study.

Women remember more when the speaker has a deeper male voice. These researchers are evolutionary psychologists so they talk about how this stems from heterosexual women and sexual attraction in mate selection. We’re not looking at this so much from the perspective of ‘manly men’ or sexual attraction even though there is nothing wrong with either of those things. This is, from our perspective, all about what makes information most memorable.

When you are presenting your case, you want jurors to listen. And any edge you can get is important. What this research says is that heterosexual women attend more to a deep voice than to your physical attractiveness (although that won’t hurt either). They will remember what you say in that deep resonant voice. Use it to your advantage.

And if you are a young associate with a deep voice—step up and let the senior partner know you’re available in the inimitable words of my own deep-voiced favorite—Leonard Cohen.

 

Smith, D., Jones, BC, Feinberg, DR, & Allan, K. (2011). A modulatory effect of male voice pitch on long-term memory in women: Evidence of adaption for mate choice? Memory and Cognition

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