Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Men Growl, Whine Like Dogs to Determine Dominance

Culture: That would have made Barry White the most dominant male in his lifetime.

A male dog will whine and beg in deference to a stronger dog, but will lower its voice into a guttural growl if it thinks it has a fighting chance. Men unconsciously do a similar thing, scientists say. A new study finds that the lower the pitch of a man's voice, the more physically dominant other men think he is. And men lower their voice pitch when addressing a man they believe to be less dominant than themselves, but raise it when speaking to someone they think is more dominant. The findings, detailed in the July issue of the journal of Evolution and Human Behavior, could help explain why vocal pitch in men and women are so different. ....Like whining in dogs, a man's raising of pitch to a physically dominant man is probably an unconscious way of showing deference, said study leader David Puts of the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania. Men could fake it and lower their pitch to appear more dominant than they really are, but if someone calls their bluff in a real-world situation, the consequences could be severe. "If you advertise dominance and can't back it up, the attacks may be worse than if you had avoided the fight to begin with," Puts told LiveScience. An experiment with sparrows done in the 1980's provides a case in point. Male sparrows have black patches on their chests that advertise their status to other males. The more dominant and older a male sparrow is, the bigger and darker his patch is. Researchers painted dark patches on the chests of male sparrows that weren't very dominant before. The ruse worked for a while, but eventually the posers were challenged to fight. "When they were, it was pretty bad for them, because they couldn't back up the dominance that they had been claiming," Puts said.

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