Saturday, June 26, 2010

Female vs. male voices

When GPS devices first appeared in cars, manufacturers chose male voices, which according to studies, command more respect than female voices. “When the key dimension is competence, the male voice is better,” said Clifford I. Nass, a communication professor at Stanford University and a consultant to many car companies. “When the key dimension is likability, the female voice is better.” As confidence in the technology grew, the primary consideration switched to friendliness.

“The main reason you have female voices in cars is not the technical qualifications like hearability,” said Dr. Nass. “It’s that finding a female voice that is pleasing to almost everyone is infinitely easier than finding a male voice.” Humans are more attuned to female voices from birth, he noted. “Even in the womb, a fetus will be able to distinguish a mother’s voice from all other voices and will not be able to distinguish the father’s voice.
--Bruce Feiler, NYT, on why a woman tells you that your GPS is recalculating

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