For Babies, It’s All About Change


(First of all, how great are these pictures???)

Quick read about an interesting study, sent along by Kindermusik educator Sally Reynolds (Australia) with this note::

This is really interesting – entirely backs up what we see happening in Village classes all the time and makes the link between understanding emotion and developing language.”

Just as babies can intuit how to swim almost immediately upon birth, turns out infants sure know their music.

My favorite part, as always when it comes to scientific studies of infants, is the data-collection. Because researchers don’t have any specific linguistic communication to work with, they study attention span (thank goodness no one is using these methods on me) – finding reliably that babies lose interest in something once it stops changing or being interesting. (Sound about right?)

From the article:

First they displayed an emotionally-neutral face for the baby while music played. When the baby looked away from the face, the music stopped and the researchers queued up a new song from a playlist of five happy and five sad songs. For each song, observers recorded how long the baby paid attention to the face. The babies that noticed a switch from happy to sad, or vice versa, stared at the face three to four seconds longer than usual because of their heightened interest.

So despite what the hysterical pictures above show, what the study actually reveals is that babies sense not just that certain music feels “happy” and other music feels “sad” – but rather, they sense change from one to the other. Their attention is maintained if there is variety and lost if there is not. Totally, totally cool – and a good reminder to us all…though if you spend time with babies, you probably don’t need this particular reminder.

Can’t end without dropping in this excellent sentiment from the study’s author, Ross Flomm:

“Infants master so many things in such a short time frame. I can’t think of a better line of inquiry than how infants learn so much so quickly.”


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