Your Brilliant Baby in Week 19: Prefering Music to Talking
What your infant learns this week
Baby’s Brain in Week 19
Snuggling Baby in your arms, you—like all mothers from every culture and generation—likely find yourself singing to him. Singing to babies, even those who are only a few minutes or hours old, is as universal as music itself. (Go ahead—just try to spend a day without so much as humming around your little guy!)
You may notice that when you sing, your baby seems to stop what he’s doing, whether crying or kicking, and really listen. Is he going to be a music prodigy? Or does your child share his interest in music with all babies?
As it turns out, babies everywhere attend to singing—and, in fact, prefer it over speech. In a laboratory experiment, researchers proved this by videotaping five-and-a-half to six-and-a-half-month-old babies when their mothers communicated with them in two ways:
- singing to them in a distinctive style, which involved a high pitch, slow tempo, and emotional expressiveness
- speaking to them using motherese (that sing-songy talking style that proved universal in earlier studies)
Trained observers noted the differences between the infants’ body movements and visual fixations when they heard singing versus when they heard speaking. The results revealed that while the babies were highly attentive to both maternal signals, they exhibited more sustained attention—that is, they reacted more and for longer—to their moms’ singing than to their speech.
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