Margaret Thatcher Inspired Study Finds Power Changes Our Speech

Margaret Thatcher received vocal coaching in a bid to sound more authoritative, and now her well-known story has inspired a new study about vocal habits.

American researchers from San Diego State University asked 161 students to read a passage aloud, first playing the role of a high-rank person, then acting as a low-rank person.

They found that being in a position of power significantly changed the way that people speak.

Baroness Thatcher was instructed to lower her voice, but surprisingly, participant's voices went up in pitch when they adopted a high-rank persona.

However, high-ranking participants did become more monotone with fewer variations in volume, mirroring Thatcher's speech.

“Our findings suggest that whether it’s parents attempting to assert authority over unruly children, haggling between a car salesman and customer or negotiations between heads of states, the sound of the voices involved may profoundly determine the outcome of those interactions," said Prof Sei Jin Ko of San Diego State University.

In the second half of the experiment, a separate group of volunteers were asked to listen to recordings of the various voices.

Listeners were able to identify changes in voice and successfully noted whether the students had power or not in each clip.

The results suggest that the way we speak does influence the way others view us - just as Thatcher's advisors thought.

The study 'The Sound of Power Conveying and Detecting Hierarchical Rank Through Voice' is published in the journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

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