Dating Magazine

Does Your Tone of Voice Predict Marital Bliss Or Divorce?

By Datecoachtoni @CoachToni

An interdisciplinary team comprised of researchers from USC Viterbi School of Engineering and the University of Utah developed an algorithm that can predict (with a 79% accuracy) a couple’s future marital success based on the tone of voice that partners use with one another. Apparently the accuracy rate of this algorithm is better than that of marital therapists who worked with these couples.

Over one hundred couples were recorded for over two years during therapy sessions—and then their marital status was tracked for five years more. With a focus on acoustic features that included pitch, intensity, shimmer and jitter; the algorithm was able to detect and interpret the nature and level of emotion contained in their speech. Then a prediction was made based on the level and consistency of positive or negative emotion that was detected.

Once the algorithm was fine-tuned, it was measured against the analysis made by therapists who had coded the couples for positive or negative qualities. What the researchers found was that using only the voice input resulted in higher accuracy in predicting future marital success or failure.

What this research clearly underscores is what many nonverbal communication experts have been saying for a long time—“it’s not what you say, but how you say it.” Not only does tone of voice convey the strongest message, it also has the greatest impact on the person receiving the message. This research showed an impact on the emotional state of both partners, and how it changed over time, depending on the primary tone of voice that each used across therapy sessions.

This is exciting stuff because now we have a new tool that can be used to better help couples who come in for counseling due to serious relationship issues. We can not only more accurately assess their relationship potential on the first session, we can evaluate if the counseling is working based on tone of voice over time. As a therapist I also think we can coach people to be mindful of HOW they speak to one another in order to help keep the lines of communication open, and facilitate an environment of greater trust and respect. Many of us do this already, but putting more focus on HOW people communicate can produce more accurate feedback, while helping the couple to feel more hopeful, positive and invested in the process.

So remember, it’s everything you don’t say that can speak the loudest. Want to know more? You can read more on this research at

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