While a masculine voice is often believed to contain authority and is proven to be desirable in leaders, it may not be the best characteristic for a lawyer. A research team has conducted a recent study of lawyers voices and it has concluded that an attorney who is perceived to have a very masculine voice is less likely to win his case.
According to New Scientist:
To explore whether the vocal characteristics of male lawyers affect trial outcomes, a team led by linguist Alan Yu of the University of Chicago and legal theorist Daniel Chen of ETH Zurich in Switzerland collected 60 recordings of male lawyers in the Supreme Court making the traditional opening statement: “Mister Chief Justice, may it please the court”. Then 200 volunteers rated these clips for how masculine they thought the speaker was, as well as how attractive, confident, intelligent, trustworthy and educated they perceived the voice to be.
Of the six factors, only the perception of masculinity in a lawyers voice actually seemed to correlate with their likelihood of winning the case. Those who had been ranked as having a less-masculine voice were more likely to win, though the reason for this is still unclear.
How this knowledge could affect court proceedings remains to be seen. While there are certainly lawyers who will do anything to win, including feminizing their own voice, Casey Klofstad, a political scientist at the University of Miami believes the best outcome would be simply educating jurors about their biases. “You could have legal writings without oral arguments, but that’s not a feasible change,” said Klofstad. “The only way around it is to make people aware of the bias, and hope they are mindful of it when listening”.
The justice system is certainly not perfect, and probably never will be. But anyone who worries about their lawyers booming baritone should probably remember that there are innumerable biases that could affect the proceedings. Case in point, always hope the judge has eaten before coming into work.
(Photo: Senator Claire McCaskill)