+
baby talk, parentese, infants
via Pixabay

A father cradling his infant son.

It's almost impossible to be handed a baby and not immediately break into baby talk. In fact, it seems incredibly strange to even consider talking to a baby like one would an adult. Studies have shown that babies prefer baby talk, too.

Researchers from Stanford found that babies prefer to be spoken to in baby talk or “parentese” as scientists refer to the sing-songy cooing we do when talking to infants.

“Often parents are discouraged from using baby talk by well-meaning friends or even health professionals,” Michael Frank, a Stanford psychologist, told Stanford News. “But the evidence suggests that it’s actually a great way to engage with your baby because babies just like it–it tells them, ‘This speech is meant for you!’”

The big question that has eluded scientists is whether parentese is a universal language or varies by culture.


"Most of the research looking at this have studied urban societies in the U.S., Canada, Germany, Sweden, Russia," Courtney Hilton, postdoctoral fellow and principal author of "Acoustic regularities in infant-directed speech and song across cultures," told NPR. "But to make a rigorous claim that there is any kind of instinct to do this, we have to study more diverse cultures."

Hilton, along with a team of researchers, collected 1,615 recordings from 21 cultures across six continents over a period of three years to find out whether parentese was a universal language. Their findings were published in the journal Nature Human Behavior.

What researchers found was that everyone changed their rhythm, volume, speed and other vocal traits when talking to infants. It didn’t matter if they were in San Diego, East Africa, New Zealand or China.

via Pixabay

“Our study provides the strongest test yet of whether there are acoustic regularities in infant-directed vocalizations across cultures,” Hilton said. “It is also really the first to convincingly address this question in both speech and song simultaneously. The consistencies in vocal features offer a really tantalizing clue for a link between infant-care practices and distinctive aspects of our human psychology relating to music and sociality.”

So, according to research, if you hand someone a baby anywhere in the world, they would begin to speak to it in parentese, regardless of their culture, location, economic status or language.

The research makes it appear as though parentese is hard-wired into all of humanity. As infants, we seem to be drawn to those who speak it; as adults, we instinctually drop into the vocal patterns when communicating with a baby.

"These commonalities are almost woven into our biology," Hilton said. "From people in crowded urban centers in Beijing, all the way to a tiny hunter/gatherer society in South Africa, there is something we share. It's a kind of instinct that ties people together."

In a world that is divided by race, class, culture, language, politics and geopolitical forces, there’s something comforting in knowing that on a deeper level we all react to infants the same way. It seems that no matter who we are or where we live, babies bring out the best in humanity.

via UNSW

This article originally appeared on 07.10.21


Dr. Daniel Mansfield and his team at the University of New South Wales in Australia have just made an incredible discovery. While studying a 3,700-year-old tablet from the ancient civilization of Babylon, they found evidence that the Babylonians were doing something astounding: trigonometry!

Most historians have credited the Greeks with creating the study of triangles' sides and angles, but this tablet presents indisputable evidence that the Babylonians were using the technique 1,500 years before the Greeks ever were.


Keep ReadingShow less
Canva

Small actions lead to big movements.

Acts of kindness—we know they’re important not only for others, but for ourselves. They can contribute to a more positive community and help us feel more connected, happier even. But in our incessantly busy and hectic lives, performing good deeds can feel like an unattainable goal. Or perhaps we equate generosity with monetary contribution, which can feel like an impossible task depending on a person’s financial situation.

Perhaps surprisingly, the main reason people don’t offer more acts of kindness is the fear of being misunderstood. That is, at least, according to The Kindness Test—an online questionnaire about being nice to others that more than 60,000 people from 144 countries completed. It does make sense—having your good intentions be viewed as an awkward source of discomfort is not exactly fun for either party.

However, the results of The Kindness Test also indicated those fears were perhaps unfounded. The most common words people used were "happy," "grateful," "loved," "relieved" and "pleased" to describe their feelings after receiving kindness. Less than 1% of people said they felt embarrassed, according to the BBC.


Keep ReadingShow less

This article originally appeared on 09.08.16


92-year-old Norma had a strange and heartbreaking routine.

Every night around 5:30 p.m., she stood up and told the staff at her Ohio nursing home that she needed to leave. When they asked why, she said she needed to go home to take care of her mother. Her mom, of course, had long since passed away.

Behavior like Norma's is quite common for older folks suffering from Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia. Walter, another man in the same assisted living facility, demanded breakfast from the staff every night around 7:30.

Keep ReadingShow less