Gender attitudes affect the strength of the Frequency Code

Sasha Calhoun, Paul Warren, Jemima Agnew, Joy Mills

Thursday, December 15th, 2022, 12pm – 12.30pm


Following the Frequency Code, certain intonational meanings have a biological basis: high vs. low pitch are physically linked to small vs. large body size and to female vs. male gender (via sexual dimorphism), leading to affective meanings like submissiveness vs. dominance. While such associations appear widespread, the code assumes culture- and individual-specific ideological links, e.g., between submissiveness and femininity. We present Implicit Association Test experiments measuring associations between voice pitch and body size/gender. All participants showed these associations, however, their strength varied according to listeners’ genders and gender beliefs. We discuss implications for theories of pitch iconicity.