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Stuart et al In review

Stuart DS, Jones BC, Feinberg DR, Allan K A modulatory effect of male voice pitch on long-term memory in women: evidence of adaptation for mate-choice? Memory and Cognition. PDF

From a functionalist perspective, human memory should be attuned to information of adaptive value for survival or for reproductive fitness. While evidence grows of sensitivity to the former, i.e. survival-related information, specific links between fitness-related signals and memory function have never been demonstrated. Here we show that memory in women is sensitive to male voice pitch, a sexually dimorphic cue important for female mate-choice because it indicates not only good genetic quality but also behavioural traits that are undesirable in a long-term partner. We report that women’s visual object memory is significantly enhanced when an object’s name is spoken during encoding in a masculinised (i.e. lower pitch) versus feminised (i.e. higher pitch) male voice. The analogous effect was not observed when women listened to other women’s voices. We argue that the modulatory effect of male voice pitch may reveal a functional specialisation within women’s memory that promotes adaptive mate-choices.