Babies Recognize Danger When They Hear It
I'm scared by the sound of snakes hissing and thunder clapping, and turns out, so is my baby!
I don’t know how many times I’ve said to my 3 year old during a thunderstorm, “It’s just a noise…thunder is just a noise!” But the sound of clapping thunder still scares her (and me too a little bit!)
A fascinating new study shows that babies as young as 9 months old can recognize sounds that are historically associated with danger and feel that they are, in fact, dangerous. Nicole Erlich, a psychologist at the University of Queensland, Australia led the study— during which 61 infants were introduced to “ancient” danger sounds, like those of adults arguing, thunder booming, snakes hissing and fire crackling.
Interestingly, when the 9-month-old babies were exposed to ancient danger sounds their heart rates slowed, their eyes opened wide during blinks and they turned to look at their parents for reassurance. Erlich and her team believe these to be physical cues indicating the babies started paying more attention to the danger sounds.
She proposes that “there is something special” about ancient sounds that babies respond to, and her findings suggest infants’ brains have evolved to fixate on age-old threats. Further, Erlich believes that babies develop their attention to dangerous sounds while they are still in the womb.
The study also found that when the infants listened to classical music and the sound of laughing babies, they didn’t pay as much attention. Interestingly, more “modern” danger sounds like breaking glass and wailing sirens weren’t that appealing to them, either.
So, next time there’s a thunderstorm, keep a close eye on baby and make sure he/she’s comforted. And if there’s a snake hissing nearby, well, just get away as fast as you can!
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