Baby talk may sound kind of weird, but it's actually an awesome evolutionary phenomenon.

A lot of us find baby talk to be very ... weird.

You know, that kind of high-pitched singsong kind of lingo that only seems to occur around small babies or funny-looking dogs? It's totally weird. But we all do it.


"Who-o-o's a good boy? Who is? Who is?"

It just seems to happen, like there's some sort of switch in our brain that turns on and transforms us from articulate human beings into human beings who sound like they swallowed an Auto-Tune machine.

Baby talk isn't limited to a handful of languages, either — it's been observed nearly everywhere — including in English, Arabic, Hindi, and Mandarin-speaking cultures, to name just a few.

A lot of scientists, however, don't find baby talk weird at all. They find it absolutely fascinating.

Language is something we use every day, but it's one of the most interesting puzzles in biology. Figuring out how babies learn to talk can help us understand how our own brains process language and maybe even how language evolved in the first place.

Bonobos, one of our closest evolutionary relatives, may have their own form of baby talk. Photo from Thomas Lohnes/AFP/Getty Images.

Scientists have found that using baby talk might actually help infants learn words faster.

Of course, scientists usually don't call it "baby talk," preferring somewhat more clinical terms like "parentese," "motherese," or "infant-directed speech."

But one study from the University of Washington found that 2-year-olds whose parents regularly had long conversations with their kids in parentese had more than double the vocabulary of kids who got the least exposure to it.

Why? It turns out babies like the singsongy tone of voice that comes with baby talk.

It's not the made-up words, like goo-goo ga-ga; instead, it's that weird tone of voice we use. There's something about that pattern of long, exaggerated sentences ("Helloooo, lil' bay-bee" vs. "Greetings, small infant," or just "Hey", for example) that babies seem to tune in on.

The high-pitched sounds we use when speaking in baby talk appear to be better at keeping babies' attention than when we speak with more normal intonation and inflections.

Those big, grand exaggerations we tend to use in baby talk also help convey emotion better than our normal adult speech.

Imagine trying to learn a new language — when it comes to figuring out which words are happy and which are sad, would you rather talk to Miss Piggy, whose tone of voice always lets you know what she's feeling, or Sam the Eagle, whose voice remains the same no matter what he's talking about?

GIF from "The Muppets."

Scientists also think the repetitive sounds used when speaking in baby talk (think "ma-ma," "da-da," or "choo-choo") might also help cement the words in a baby's brain.

In a recent study from the University of Edinburgh, scientists put 18-month-old kids in a room with a computer screen.

Something like this, anyways...

In each test, they showed each of the kids two unfamiliar objects. One object was given a repeating made-up name, like "nee-nee." The other object's made-up name didn't have a repetitive sound.

When the researchers later tested the kids again, they found the kids were better at remembering the name of the object with the repeated syllable.

So, parents and friends of parents with infants, now that you know this, go ahead and your singsongy baby talk flag fly.

You might feel weird using baby talk or maybe other people think you're weird for doing so — but armed with this knowledge, you can go right ahead and embrace the baby talk. After all, no matter what other people think, you know what you're really doing.

You're helping your kid learn to speak.

Family

On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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via Cadbury

Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

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Well Being

Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

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