Voice Recognition: Close Your Eyes & Choose The President

How much does voice matter?

“Voice matters — it’s what sells,” says John Daly, a University of Texas communications professor who has written a book about persuasion. University of California at Los Angeles psychology professor Albert Mehrabian even claims to have quantified how important a voice is. When we are deciding whether we like the person delivering a message, tone of voice accounts for 38% of our opinion, body language for 55% and the actual words for just 7%, his studies suggest.

Keen to preserve the appearance of authenticity, the presidential campaigns said they aren’t using voice coaches. (Sen. Clinton’s campaign alone didn’t return emails seeking comment). Voice coaches generally won’t say whether they are helping a specific candidate, although none of those commenting in this article are involved in campaigns.


Pitch variability, or inflection, may be almost as important as pitch because it suggests passion and energy. On that measure, Sen. Clinton outdistanced the pack. The difference between her highest- and lowest-pitched words was almost triple the score of Mr. Romney, who had the least inflection.

Mr. Romney also had the least difference between his loudest and softest words — 16 decibels compared with 30 decibels for Sen. Obama, who modulated his volume the most. Those variations in pitch and volume, plus switch-ups in speed, create what UCLA’s Mr. Mehrabian calls “arousal” in an audience. That draws in listeners by creating excitement.

“Emotionally, [voters] will want to embrace your ideas because you have touched them with your passion,” adds Richard Greene, a Los Angeles public-speaking coach.

Do I want to be aroused by a Presidential candidate’s speech?

There is no question that image matters. Reading this article though, makes me think something is missing in their voice analysis.

Cross-posted at Dr. Melissa Clouthier.

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