Each time you pick up the phone and chat with a new person, that stranger is subconciously judging you from your first "hello." Don't get mad: you, too, are judging them. New research indicates that we begin to form first impressions based on how someone says "hello," ScienceNOW reports—specifically, on how the tone of their voice sounds.
Researchers in the U.K. recruited around 60 undergraduate students—half male, half female—and recorded them reading a short passage in a non-descript voice, ScienceNOW describes. The team edited down the recordings, leaving only the part where the students picked up the phone and said "hello." They then asked over 300 other students to listen to the recordings of that single word and asked to give an impression of the unseen person speaking it, such as how trustworthy they thought that person was or how warm their personality sounded. (ScienceNOW provides links for listening to both a supposedly trustworthy and an untrustworthy person say "hello.")
The students didn't hesitate to make judgements about the speakers at the other end of the line, and on average their assessments of those individuals' personalities converged, ScienceNOW reprots. Here's more on those findings:
Men who raised the tone of their voices, and women who alternated the pitch of their voices were rated as more trustworthy. Men with lower pitched voices were generally perceived as more dominant. But the opposite was true for women: Those with higher average pitch were rated as more dominant.
Our vocal tones, the resarchers conclude, are just one more trait on the list of things we are judged by—and use to judge—each time we encounter a new person, even if we have no control over some of those traits.