Babies Want to Listen to Other Babies Babies are more interested in listening to other babies than to adults, suggest new findings from McGill University. In the study, published in Developmental Science, young infants showed a clear preference for vowels played in an infant voice over those in an adult female voice (both tones were synthesized). The ... Research in Brief
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Research in Brief  |   July 01, 2015
Babies Want to Listen to Other Babies
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Speech, Voice & Prosody / Research in Brief
Research in Brief   |   July 01, 2015
Babies Want to Listen to Other Babies
The ASHA Leader, July 2015, Vol. 20, 17. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB6.20072015.17
The ASHA Leader, July 2015, Vol. 20, 17. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB6.20072015.17
Babies are more interested in listening to other babies than to adults, suggest new findings from McGill University.
In the study, published in Developmental Science, young infants showed a clear preference for vowels played in an infant voice over those in an adult female voice (both tones were synthesized). The research, authors say, raises new questions about speech register in infants’ development and how they learn to talk.
“Perhaps, when we use a high, infant-like voice pitch to speak to our babies, we are actually preparing them to perceive their own voice,” says McGill’s Linda Polka, the study’s lead author, adding that, “Babies need to spend lots of time moving their mouths and vocal cords to understand the kind of sounds they can make themselves. They need, quite literally, to ‘find their own voice.’”
Across four experiments in the study, researchers measured how long each of the two types of sounds held the attention of 80 babies, ages 4 to 6 months. The infants favored the infant sounds, paying attention to them 40 percent longer than they did adult sounds. Some babies also displayed their preference with facial expressions—neutral, passive faces listening to the adult vowel gave way to smiles and moving mouths on hearing the infant vowel.

Neutral, passive faces listening to the adult vowel gave way to smiles and moving mouths on hearing the infant vowel.

The babies in the study were not yet babbling themselves, which suggests they weren’t just choosing a familiar sound they already experience through their own voices. The authors also note that continued study of the complex relationship between speech perception and speech production in babies will further understanding of infant language development.
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July 2015
Volume 20, Issue 7