Does he sound cooperative? Acoustic correlates of cooperativeness

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31 August 2022

The sound of the voice has several acoustic features that influence the perception of how cooperative the speaker is. It remains unknown, however, whether these acoustic features are associated with actual cooperative behaviour. This issue is crucial to disentangle whether inferences of traits from voices are based on stereotypes, or facilitate the detection of cooperative partners. The latter is likely due to the pleiotropic effect that testosterone has on both cooperative behaviours and acoustic features. In the present study, we quantified the cooperativeness of native French-speaking men in a one-shot public good game. We also measured mean fundamental frequency, pitch variations, roughness, and breathiness from spontaneous speech recordings of the same men and collected saliva samples to measure their testosterone levels. Our results showed that men with lower-pitched voices and greater pitch variations were more cooperative. However, testosterone did not influence cooperative behaviours or acoustic features. Our finding provides the first evidence of the acoustic correlates of cooperative behaviour. When considered in combination with the literature on the detection of cooperativeness from faces, the results imply that assessment of cooperative behaviour would be improved by simultaneous consideration of visual and auditory cues.