If a mother wants to calm down her baby, her first instinct would be to do a baby-talk. But according to a new research, singing may be more effective than talking. Infants who hear some good melodies likely remain calm for a significantly longer time than if they hear some simple talks.
Humans really find entertainment when listening to music. Such cannot be denied in a person who would go on drumming, head-nodding, and the like, when hearing a good music. Although babies don't display the same actions, it may just be because they lack the physical capability to do so. However, that does not mean they are not enraptured by the good music they hear.
Researchers, including Prof. Isabelle Peretz, set out to gain a better understanding of whether babies have the mental capacity to be 'entrained' by good music. She said that many studies have looked at how singing and speech catch the attention of babies, but her team wanted to know how different sounds affect their emotional self-control.
Researchers investigated 30 healthy babies at the age of 6 to 9 months, in a two set-up experiments.
In the first experiment, babies were presented baby-talks and adult directed speeches that were spoken in Turkish. Such change in language was necessary in order to take out the possible effect of sensitivity to the mother's voice and language. The babies were also played with some recordings rather than live performance to ensure no social interaction between the baby and the performer. Infants were allowed to listen to recording or speeches until they displayed a 'cry face' - defined as lowered brows, lip corners pulled to the side, mouth opening and raised cheeks.
In the second set-up, a different group of infants were exposed in the same way except that the babies were presented with recordings of their mothers singing songs in French - a familiar language.
The researchers found in the first test that when infants listened to Turkish music, they remained calm for about nine minutes. But when listening to speech, it only kept them calm for approximately four minutes, regardless of whether it was a baby-talk or not.
The same effect was also found in the second test.
"These findings speak to the intrinsic importance of music, and of nursery rhymes in particular, which appeal to our desire for simplicity, and repetition," says first author Marieve Corbeil in a statement.
"Although infant distress signals typically prompt parental comforting interventions, they induce frustration and anger in some at-risk parents, leading to insensitive responding and, in the worst cases, to infant neglect or abuse," adds Prof. Peretz. "At risk parents within the purview of social service agencies could be encouraged to play vocal music to infants and, better still, to sing to them."
The study appears in the journal Infancy.