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Why Are Most Computer Voices Female?

female computer voice
Tom Harley, Getty Images

Who knew — there’s a reason why most computer voices are female.

In fact, there are several reasons.

The main reason is probably biological. Research has shown that humans are simply programmed to favor female voices. Studies suggest that this preference starts in the womb, where fetuses have been shown to respond to the voices of their mothers, but not their fathers.

“It’s a well-established phenomenon that the human brain is developed to like female voices,” said Stanford University Professor Clifford Nass.

People just tend to prefer female voices to male voices, in most cases. “It’s much easier to find a female voice that everyone likes than a male voice that everyone likes,” said Nass.

Another reason is that it has been an industry standard since female voices were used for controls in the cockpits of World War II planes to distinguish them from the male voices of the crew. Automakers continued the tradition when they began adding voices to navigation devices and other driver prompts.

And, experts say most tech companies stayed away from male computer voices because of Stanley Kubrick’s creepy HAL computer in ‘2001: A Space Odyssey.’ Tim Bajarin, a Silicon Valley analyst, said, “A lot of tech companies stayed away from the male voice because of HAL. I’ve heard that theory tossed around multiple times.”

However, some companies still have to use male voices to appease customers. For example, BMW had to use male voices in some of its onboard GPS systems after so many German men called to say they refused to take directions from a woman. It’s also interesting to note that the voice for iPhone’s new Siri app is female for all users except those in France and the UK.

But, it’s clear, from movies to telephone operators, people are just more accustomed to hearing disembodied female voices give instructions. And most of them don’t mind it.


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