Men who mumble when they talk appear more attractive to women, according to researchers from the University of California.
Academics found those who articulate less clearly are associated with being more “masculine” and therefore carry a better chance of appealing to a female partner.
However, the situation is the opposite for women as those able to enunciate in precise, clearer tones are perceived as more alluring because it indicates “femininity”, the study found.
Publishing their report in The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, scientists said their study backs long-held evolutionary findings.
Dr Daniel Stehr, the co-author of the report, said: “From a sexual selection standpoint, males with traits that are slightly more masculine than average are typically preferred. In this context, it would make males with less clear speech more attractive.”
Measuring the ‘vowel space area’
Dr Stehr’s study saw a sample of 42 people, split evenly between men and women, perform various speech tasks which were recorded so that the clarity of their speech could be assessed.
The recordings were then played to 124 analysts, who rated how attractive the voices sounded.
According to the findings, male participants who ranked lower on the “vowel space area”, an index used to measure speech intelligibility, scored higher for vocal attractiveness amongst women.
People with higher, or more frequent “vowel space area” are considered to be easier to understand because the different vowel sounds are made clearer.
Leading actors are often accused of being so-called “mumblers”, with Marlon Brando, Tom Hardy, Jeff Bridges and Heath Ledger all said to be hard to understand on camera.
Brando, who drew critical acclaim for his performance of Mafia boss Don Corleone in The Godfather, placed cotton buds in his cheeks to make himself unintelligible during his performance.
Not everyone fond of mumbling
However, appearing unintelligible has also drawn criticism from viewers who struggle to grasp dialogue as a result.
Andrew Davies, who has adapted some of Britain’s most highly acclaimed dramas for television, including Pride and Prejudice and War and Peace, said that directors often fail to notice their actors mumbling during filming, much to the consternation of the audience.
Speaking to The Telegraph in 2017, he commented: “Actors who are trying to make it sound more like natural speech sometimes do tend to mumble. And directors know the lines so well that they can hear them and they think they’re being said clearly.
“I watch the rushes and I’m full of complaints. Directors get sick of me saying ‘I can’t see, it’s too dark, and I can’t hear what they’re saying because it’s not clear’. I think this can happen.”