Vocal fundamental and formant frequencies are honest signals of threat potential in peripubertal males

Carolyn R. Hodges-Simeon, Michael Gurven, David A. Puts, Steven J.C. Gaulin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

24 Scopus citations


Fundamental and formant frequencies influence perceived pitch and are sexually dimorphic in humans. The information content of these acoustic parameters can illuminate the forces of sexual selection shaping vocal sex differences as well as the mechanisms that ensure signal reliability. We use multiple regression to examine the relationships between somatic (height, adiposity, and strength) and acoustic (fundamental frequency [F 0], formant position [P f], and fundamental frequency variation [F 0-SD]) characteristics in a sample of peripubertal Bolivian Tsimane. Results indicate that among males - but not females - strength is the strongest predictor of F 0 and P f and that F 0 and P f are independent predictors of strength when height and adiposity are controlled. These findings suggest that listeners may attend to vocal frequencies because they signal honest, nonredundant information about male strength and threat potential, which are strongly related to physical maturity and which cannot be ascertained from visual or other indicators of height or adiposity alone.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)984-988
Number of pages5
JournalBehavioral Ecology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology

Cite this