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The Morgan Freeman Effect

The results are in – Morgan Freeman is the celebrity voice of choice for Voice Assistants (VAs) according to the findings of our 2019 Datafication Project.

World-famous for his narrating ingenuity, the first movie carrying Freeman’s voice was The Shawshank Redemption. The film and the famous Freeman line “Andy Dufresne who crawled through a river of sh*t and came out clean on the other side” is nearly 25 years old.

Since then, Morgan Freeman has become a part of our cultural zeitgeist. Mark Zuckerberg’s AI smart home system Jarvis (named after the faithful assistant from Iron Man) communicates with the voice of Morgan Freeman. His voice is ever- present on YouTube, in our advertising and beyond. The webcomic XKCD illustrates the fictitious auditory hallucination, Freeman Paracusia, causing the sufferer to read everything in a Morgan Freeman voice.

In film, Freeman is omnipresent. He skilfully narrates the opening of the 2005 War of the Worlds and the 2006 Academy Award Winner, March of the Penguins. He plays Vitruvius in The Lego Movie, stars as Mandela in the Eastwood biopic Invictus, and appears in Olympus has Fallen to mention but a few. Freeman’s voice-over work includes introducing the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric and he hosts and narrates the Discovery Channel’s, Through the Wormhole.

A recent survey* in the UK revealed 1 in 6 Brits choose Freeman as their VA voice of choice. It’s Morgan Freeman they want telling them to pack their brolly or play them their favourite song. *We might have a better stat to use from our own Datafication study?

According to Time magazine, Science helps explain the popularity of the voice of Morgan Freeman with people favouring the sound of low-pitched voices in males. The appeal of deep-voiced men is explored further in a control study by the Evolution and Human Behaviour journal. It reveals how voice pitch influences how we elect our leaders. People with lower-pitched voices are more likely to be elected. However, reassuringly or alarmingly (depending on how you look at it) lower-pitched voice does not signal leadership ability. Generally, a deeper voice carries positive connotations of competence, integrity and physical power. It’s no surprise then that Morgan Freeman was cast as the voice of God in Bruce Almighty.

In Time Magazine, Pamela Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Research Center explains that in film we’ve watched Freeman play the good guy over and over again, and those years of positive associations add up. His deep tones have nudged people to demand his voice through the long-term creation of an unconscious bias for this now famous narrating voice.