Despite the way it may seem at times, this crop of Presidential candidates does more than just scream into microphones before big crowds all the time. Researchers from UCLA analyzed the speech patterns of Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina in different environments and found that they all use the same strategy when it comes to modulating their speaking voices.

"Our hypothesis is that persuasive goals change when you address a different audience, and this change is reflected in voice acoustics," said Rosario Signorello, a postdoctoral researcher at ULCA's David Geffen School of Medicine.

For example, when speaking before large crowds of voters, all the candidates varied the pitch of their speech widely, a technique that's been shown to be perceived as charismatic. But when speaking to groups of other leaders or peers, like the U.S. Senate or a leadership summit in New Hampshire, all the candidates kept the pitch in their voices at very low to medium, avoiding high frequencies. 

"This vocal profile seems to reflect leaders' use of vocalizations to display dominance while addressing speakers of the same social status," Signorello said. "They use voice to convey their authoritarian charisma."

In other words, the candidates lower their tones to literally talk down to their peers, appearing to be more in charge. 

To hear what these politicians really sound like, Signorello says the speech patterns used when appearing on non-political talk shows are completely different from the voices used in the other contexts and reflect the normal voice they might use with their families. 

"We found that the leaders - both Democratic and Republican, both genders - have a similar voice profile which is completely different than the other voice profiles in the other [rally and peer] communication contexts," Signorello said.

So if you want to hear what the candidates are really like, the best bet might be to ignore the speeches and political appearances and listen to how they interact with a late night comedian instead. 

Published on: May 25, 2016
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