The vocal tricks political candidates use to sound like leaders

Does the voice of a how to talk like a politician rub you the wrong way? At this point in the (seemingly endless) 2016 election season, it’s hard to blame anyone who can’t stand to hear another word from presidential hopefuls. But if linguist and psychologist Rosario Signorello has his way, you won’t turn off your speakers just yet. Signorello specializes not in what politicians say, but how they say it — and his research reveals some surprising truths about how candidates speak.

At a recent meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, Signorello, who is conducting postdoctoral research in the Department of Head and Neck Surgery at the UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, presented his most recent research on the voice acoustics of four presidential hopefuls: Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Carly Fiorina, who ended her presidential bid in February.

Signorello is interested in what he calls the “charismatic voice” — the vocal stylings that politicians use to project leadership characteristics like emotion, vision and dominance. “It’s a very complex cognitive phenomenon,” he says, and it combines physiology and psychology. Like anyone else, presidential candidates use their body to produce sounds, which are then heard and interpreted by their audience. Although their messages vary widely, the ways in which politicians deliver them with their voices are surprisingly similar.