Pin back your ears. The difference between a woman who is ovulating and one who isn't, can be detected by the pitch of the voice. Ah yes, those psychologists have been at it again. This latest addition to knowledge comes from researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles. After a careful study of women's voices it has been determined that they rise in pitch a day or two before ovulation.
Many animals exhibit signs of fertility but it has always been assumed that humans were somehow exempt. Clues that this might not quite be the case have been around for a while. Martie Haselton, who collaborated on this latest research with Greg Bryant, also published a study that suggests women, "dress to impress" when they are at their most fertile. Haselton suggests that women show more flesh and have a preference for skirts over trousers in the run up to ovulation. Another example hit the press last year when we learned that the earnings of lap dancers increase significantly around the time they are most fertile.
In the voice study, published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters, Bryant outlines how the voices of 69 women with an average age of 20, were recorded and measured. Women were asked to speak simple sentences and to make pure vowel sounds at low and high points during their fertility cycle, which was identified using hormone tests. Two days before ovulation the pitch of voices increased by an average of 15.6Hz, or a semitone if you prefer. On the day of ovulation, voices increased by an average of 10Hz.
And the point of all this, you ask? Well, the researchers speculate that higher voices act to enhance femininity, and this may be just one of several subtle signs women use at a subconscious level to make themselves more attractive.
"We found that women raised their pitch the closer they were to ovulation, but it's not like a baboon's butt going red, which is a definite sign of high fertility. This is something more subtle. A man wouldn't notice the pitch being higher if they'd never heard a woman talk before. What we're saying is by raising their pitch, women enhance their femininity. They're turning up everything that makes them more attractive," the Guardian newspaper quoted Bryant as saying.
Interesting stuff, but as a rambling afterthought, I think I speak on behalf of all men when I say, given the choice between a red baboon butt and a semitone, we'll take the extra semitone, thanks.