In this section we review some of the research and writing on voiceovers and voices.
Humans are attuned to SPEECH – we focus our attention on our voices
“Completely random stimuli, we can tune out. We also have an easier time ignoring something that is steady, stable, and routine. But things that have some pattern, like the rhythm of a conversation, but are not predictable – grab our attention, whether we want them to or not.
Speech, especially, reels us in… Humans are always trying to predict speech, says Liberman. It relates to an idea called “theory of mind”, which suggests that people can’t help themselves from trying to read into what other people are thinking. “It’s also pretty much automatic”, he wrote on his blog Language Log.”
(Excerpt from Annoying: The Science of What Bugs Us by Joe Palca and Flora Lichtman. Copyright 2011. Excerpted by permission of Wiley. All rights reserved.)
Why do we like some voices more than others?
“In scientific experiments, people consistently perceive low-pitched voices in men as stronger and more physically attractive than male voices with a higher pitch. “It’s not surprising that Morgan Freeman is used for a lot of voiceover work, because his voice is perceived as that of a dominant, strong male figure,” says Casey Klofstad, associate professor of political science at the University of Miami and researcher of how society and biology influence the way we make decisions… That’s because we get the impression that lower-voiced individuals have more integrity, competence and physical power.”
Is your voice trustworthy, engaging or soothing to strangers?
“Psychology has shown that certain cues in speech, known as paralinguistic elements, are more important than others when it comes to generating particular emotions in the listener. Low frequency, continuous sounds are far more comforting to distressed individuals than intermittent sounds, acoustic techniques which mothers tend to naturally use when trying to soothe newborn babies.
In the absence of face-to-face interaction, we also tend to pick on a couple of traits to determine whether a voice sounds trustworthy or not. Intonation, meaning the pattern of the pitch changes in a voice, is very important with male voices that are low pitched and follow a rising melodic trend being deemed particularly untrustworthy. The same is true for low pitched female voices which tend to fall while speaking.”