Why computer voices are mostly female

One answer may lie in biology. Scientific studies have shown that people generally find women’s voices more pleasing than men’s.

"It’s much easier to find a female voice that everyone likes than a male voice that everyone likes," said Stanford University Professor Clifford Nass, author of "The Man Who Lied to His Laptop: What Machines Teach Us About Human Relationships." "It’s a well-established phenomenon that the human brain is developed to like female voices."

Research suggests this preference starts as early as the womb, Nass said. He cites a study in which fetuses were found to react to the sound of their mother’s voice but not to other female voices. The fetuses showed no distinct reaction to their father’s voice, however.

Another answer lies in history. According to some sources, the use of female voices in navigation devices dates back to World War II, when women’s voices were employed in airplane cockpits because they stood out among the male pilots. And telephone operators have traditionally been female, making people accustomed to getting assistance from a disembodied woman’s voice.

When automakers were first installing automated voice prompts in cars (“your door is ajar”) decades ago, their consumer research found that people overwhelmingly preferred female voices to male ones, said Tim Bajarin, a Silicon Valley analyst and president of Creative Strategies Inc.

This may explain why in almost all GPS navigation systems on the market, the default voice is female. One notable exception has been Germany, where BMW was forced to recall a female-voiced navigation system on its 5 Series cars in the late 1990s after being flooded with calls from German men saying they refused to take directions from a woman.

"Cultural stereotypes run deep," said Nass, who details the BMW episode in his book.

» via CNN

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