Doing This One Thing in a Conversation Makes You More Attractive, Study Says

This seemingly negative trait might actually give you a leg up in the dating world.

Scouring your closet for an outfit. Obsessing over your grooming or makeup. Perfecting your witty banter. For as long as dating has been a social ritual, people have worked tirelessly at improving their odds in the search for love. But according to a study, there's one surprising thing you can do in a conversation that might make you instantly more attractive. Read on to see what habit might be giving you a leg up while searching for romance.

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Mumbling in a conversation can make men more attractive to women.

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In a study published in The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America on Aug. 31, a team of researchers recorded the voices of 42 subjects while they performed various vocal exercises. Then, separate groups of people listened to the tapes and ranked each for attractiveness.

The team focused on "vowel space area," a quantitative way to measure how clearly someone is speaking that increases as someone's speech becomes easier to understand. "A simple definition of vowel space area is that it's an index of how far apart a talker's vowels are acoustically," Sarah Hargus Ferguson, PhD, one of the study's authors from the University of Utah, told MailOnline. "The vowel space area reflects how far away, for example, 'beet' is from 'bit,' and 'bet' is from 'bait.' The smaller a talker's vowel space, the less acoustically distinct the various vowels are from each other."

Ratings from participants were then charted on a graph and compared alongside their clarity. Interestingly, the team found that men who mumbled and spoke less intelligibly were more likely to be considered attractive by female listeners.

The brain may associate mumbling with more masculine qualities.

Couple talking on a date
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The team believes that the findings could uphold previous research on "sexual dimorphism," which describes a big characteristic difference between biological sexes that can cue attractiveness. They theorize that the brain may interpret mumbling or less coherent speech as an inherently "masculine" quality, making it more attractive to the opposite sex due to evolutionary developments.

"Much received wisdom and many vocal coaches would encourage people to slow down and carefully enunciate to make a better impression on their audience," Daniel Stehr, PhD, the study's co-author from the University of California-Irvine, said in a press release. "However, when it comes to empirical studies of how attractiveness of the human voice is judged, we couldn't find previous work investigating whether an actual link exists between perceived attractiveness and overall clarity of articulation."

"From a sexual selection standpoint, males with traits that are slightly more masculine than average are typically preferred, which in this context would make males with less clear speech more attractive," he said.

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Conversely, women who annunciate well are more attractive to men.

Middle-aged man and woman on picnic date
Shutterstock/Olena Yakobchuk

The results also showed that while mumbling might make men more attractive to women, the opposite may be true as well. The researchers believe that precise annunciation may be a more inherent trait in females, which has led the brain to interpret such speech as more "feminine" over the course of evolution. The team even cites previous studies that found people made fewer errors transcribing recorded speech when listening to a female voice compared to a male speaker.

The team concluded that their results largely supported their theory of speech clarity and attractiveness, finding that vowel space area accounted for 73 percent of the variance in ratings. However, this result was true only for female talkers.

"Though the data we collected showed a strong relationship between clear speech measures and vocal attractiveness in female talkers, ultimately we did not find this to hold for our male talkers," Stehr told MailOnline.

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The results may also point to one strange evolutionary paradox when it comes to attraction and speech.

Couple on a first date
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The researchers concluded that their findings could have major cultural implications that could affect everything from daily lives to society at large. But they did point out one potential paradox in the theory of selection over the course of evolution.

"Constricted vowel space area and lower perceived clarity is associated with a range of speech motor disorders, suggesting a lack of clarity may also have indicated the presence of disease to our ancestors," Stehr said in the statement.

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Zachary Mack
Zachary is a freelance writer covering beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. Read more
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