Babies Prefer Baby Sounds Over Adult Voices
Babies learning to talk pay more attention to the sounds of other babies than to adult voices, according to new research at McGill University in Montreal.
For the study, the researchers monitored babies between four and six months old, who still had yet to attempt speaking. As the babies sat on their mothers’ laps, researchers used a voice synthesizer to produce two versions of vowel sounds–one a baby version and the other in an adult voice.
The team found that babies paid more attention to the higher-pitched baby sounds than adult sounds, as well as listened to the sounds 42 percent longer than a woman’s voice. For some infants, upon hearing the adult sounds, their facial expressions remained calm or passive. But once they started hearing baby sounds. they smiled and moved their mouths more. Researchers say the results of this study, published in Developmental Science, are consistent with prior research suggesting babies are more attracted to higher- pitched vocal sounds.
They added that being more attracted to baby-like sounds is less about the baby’s particular preference, since they have yet to make the vowel sounds. Rather, it’s about recognizing sounds babies will most likely be able to recreate. The researchers believe that this knowledge linking speech perception with actual speech explains why babies spend a lot of time moving their mouths and experimenting with different sounds. It may also explain why adults are more naturally inclined to talk to babies in a higher pitched voice.