Out of the mouth of babes

Something I notice when my toddler (Henry) is near his baby brother is how much the baby smiles when Henry is around.

He seems transfixed; watching his every move, occasionaly letting out a giggle.

Given that Henry enjoys sticking his fingers into the baby’s eye/mouth/ears at every chance, I found this amount of adulation rather curious.

But maybe we finally have the answer, thanks to some research carried out by researchers at McGill Univeristy in Montreal, Canada.IMG_1610

It is well-known that babies like listening to high-pitched sounds, better known as “baby talk”, but in the new study, the researchers found that babies actually prefer listening to their peers rather than their parents.

The researchers created vowel sounds using a synthesizer that simulates the movements of the mouth, tongue and vocal cords for humans of any age.

They then played these audio clips of  vowel sounds as spoken by “adults” and “infants” to (actual) babies.

They found that — despite the pitch of the vowel vocalisations of the infants and adults being identical — babies spent 40% longer listening to sounds generated from infants.

Not only do babies dwell for longer on infant sounds, but it also prompts them to release “positive emotions”.

So there you have it, the baby really just likes listening to his older brother, even if he does sometimes poke him in the eye.

Author: Michael Banks

UK science writer

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