No significant difference in mean fundamental vocal frequencies of black and white men

Evidence exists for "a negative relationship between circulating levels of testosterone and fundamental frequency, with higher testosterone indicating lower fundamental frequency"[1]. Edward Miller argues:
Hudson & Holbrook (1982) found lower mean fundamental vocal frequencies in Negro males and females than others had found for whites. As is well known (and found by them), males display a lower frequency (deeper voice) than do females, and puberty deepens the male voice. This deepening is generally attributed to testosterone. The deeper Negro voice may reflect the influence of higher testosterone levels at puberty or prenatally.

More recent studies have failed to replicate the result cited by Miller. A study of "vocal productions of 44 Euro-American and 40 African-American elderly speakers" showed "Euro-American elderly speakers did not differ significantly from African-American elderly speakers on the measurements of all the selected acoustic parameters of voice [including fundamental frequency]"[2]. A study on age, height, and weight-matched samples of black and white adults detected no "significant mean differences between the African American and White speakers" in fundamental frequency[3]. A study on vocal samples of 50 black and 50 white men found "no significant differences in the mean fundamental frequency or formant structure of the voice samples"[4]. Though the difference is not statistically significant, the whites in this study registered a lower mean fundamental frequency than the blacks (107.55 Hz vs. 108.85 Hz).

The study cited by Miller compared data on blacks collected by the authors to data on whites collected by others, a potential source of error. The study's claim is not sustained by more recent, direct black-white comparisons, and can not be used to argue in favor of black-white differences in masculinization.

[1] Physiol Behav. 2007 Nov 29 [Epub ahead of print] The relationship between testosterone and vocal frequencies in human males. Evans S, Neave N, Wakelin D, Hamilton C.

[2] Percept Mot Skills. 2000 Dec;91(3 Pt 1):951-8. Effects of race and sex on acoustic features of voice analysis. Xue SA, Fucci D.

[3] J Voice. 1997 Dec;11(4):410-6. Aerodynamic and acoustic characteristics of the adult African American voice. Sapienza CM.

[4] J Speech Hear Res. 1994 Aug;37(4):738-45. Speaker race identification from acoustic cues in the vocal signal. Walton JH, Orlikoff RF.


Anonymous said...

Don't believe it.

I can usually tell when a negro has entered the scene on TV without looking at the screen... and it's depth of voice.

Anonymous said...

I can usually tell when a negro has entered the scene on TV without looking at the screen... and it's depth of voice.

Yeah, I guess that's why it's so easy to mistake Chris Tucker for a white man.

Typical black and white voices are easily distinguished, but this has nothing to do with fundamental frequency. Blacks have poorer quality, "noisier" voices, not deeper voices:

J Speech Hear Res. 1994 Aug;37(4):738-45.

Speaker race identification from acoustic cues in the vocal signal.

Walton JH, Orlikoff RF.

Department of Communicative Disorders, University of Mississippi, University 38677.

One-second acoustic samples were extracted from the mid-portion of sustained /a/ vowels produced by 50 black and 50 white adult males. Each vowel sample from a black subject was randomly paired with a sample from a white subject. From the tape-recorded samples alone, both expert and naive listeners could determine the race of the speaker with 60% accuracy. The accuracy of race identification was independent of the listener's own race, sex, or listening experience. An acoustic analysis of the samples revealed that, although within ranges reported by previous studies of normal voices, the black speakers had greater frequency perturbation, significantly greater amplitude perturbation, and a significantly lower harmonics-to-noise ratio than did the white speakers. The listeners were most successful in distinguishing voice pairs when the differences in vocal perturbation and additive noise were greatest and were least successful when such differences were minimal or absent. Because there were no significant differences in the mean fundamental frequency or formant structure of the voice samples, it is likely that the listeners relied on differences in spectral noise to discriminate the black and white speakers.

PMID: 7967558 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Anonymous said...

One study - which admits to disputing the findings of an earlier study does not overturn what you say at Sailer's site is widespread perception.

You say all our ears are lying, but you also mention Chris Rock: now, why is Chris Rock's voice so notable...?

Anonymous said...

I cite three studies--the three most recent studies on the topic indexed in PubMed. All come to the same conclusion: no significant different in mean fundamental vocal frequency between black and white men. Rushton relies on a single, older study to argue the opposite.

You are clearly not very perceptive.

I said Chris Tucker, not Chris Rock.

The point is, you're obviously not relying on fundamental frequency to judge speakers' race. Even if there were a difference in mean fundamental frequency, it's inconceivable it would be of the magnitude necessary to use it to reliably make such determinations.

I didn't say anything about a "widespread perception". I said it is "often claimed"--usually by the same types who think black men are taller than white men--despite voluminous evidence showing the opposite is true. No one who has interacted with actual blacks (as opposed to watching too much television) is likely to hold either belief. (With the possible exception of certain "ethnic" whites, who could conceivably be shorter on average than American blacks.)

Anonymous said...

True newspapaer,

It's ironic that the main focus of our post is to describe multiple types of intelligence and their variation across races.

From beginning to end, your post lacks analytical competence.

This is an indication of an intelligence that is inadequate to describe and comment on the issue.

I could tear your post apart with arguments that are unimpeachable, attacking not only your conclusions but even your linguistic framework that gives away the fact that you haven't the faintest idea of how to craft an argument in a rhetorically valid manner.

However, given that your post was four years ago, I'll refrain. I just couldn't help but to comment on such uniquely wrong and wrongly stated conclusions that would only serve to only tarnish the reputation of all other race realists, should they become de-facto points of speech for those discussing the issue.

Learn how to dissect an issue in a rhetorically valid and analytically competent manner before you post in public about it. You'll save yourself, and those that may associate with you, a lot of embarrassment.