Can a monotone voice land you in jail?
Recently, the jury in a big insider trading case delivered a "Guilty on all counts" verdict.
Later, one of the jurors told The Wall Street Journal her impressions of the defense attorney:
His voice was a "monotone." He seemed "tired."
Of course, the evidence didn't help either. But suppose the defense had hired someone more lively.
Why not Lady Gaga? She could have sung the closing arguments in a high-heeled frenzy, and then instructed the jury, "Just dance."
Maybe the defense still would have lost.
But consider: If you're an executive pitching a business plan to other seasoned executives, what determines the outcome?
And if you're a surgeon, what determines if you get sued?
Often, it's your voice.
M.I.T. professor Alex Pentland demonstrated that you can predict winning business pitches without paying any attention to the content.
Instead, he focused on critical nonverbal behaviors, like vocal variety ("Understanding 'Honest Signals' in Business").
Similarly, you can predict which surgeons will get sued just by listening to their tone of voice for 40 seconds, even if you can't understand a word they're saying.
The worst tone for surgeons? Dominant. That's according to psychologist Nalini Ambady ("Surgeons' tone of voice: A clue to malpractice history").