PARENTS

Babies Prefer Listening To Each Other Than To Adults - As It Helps Them Learn To Speak

13/05/2015 12:49 BST | Updated 13/05/2015 13:59 BST

Babies are much more interested in hearing other babies babble away than they are in listening to what their parents have to say, according to a new study.

And who can blame them?

But aside from looking for a welcome reprieve from having to hear their mum and dad bang on about the same old tired topics of conversation, the researchers believe there could be a very important reason for this:

It may help to kick start the processes involved in learning how to speak.

babies talking

Researchers at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, made the discovery after they played a recording of a repeated vowel sound to babies.

The recording mimicked the sounds made by either an adult woman or those made by a baby.

You can see Camille, one of the babies involved in the study, reacting to the sounds in the video above.

By measuring how long each sound held the infants' attention, the researchers discovered that the babies had a clear preference for the sound of the baby-mimicking recording, which they would listen to on average for 40% longer than the adult-like recording.

Some of the babies expressed their preference for the "baby" recording in other ways. For instance when played the "adult" sounds their faces would remain neutral, but when the "baby" noises started to play they would smile or move their mouths while they listened.

In the study, which was published in the journal Developmental Science, the researchers said the babies appeared to recognise that the "baby" recording was a sound that they could try to make themselves.

Senior author of the study, Professor Linda Polka suggested that parents may already know this on an intuitive level.

"Perhaps, when we use a high, infant-like voice pitch to speak to our babies, we are actually preparing them to perceive their own voice," she said.

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"As adults, we use language to communicate. But when a young infant starts to make speech sounds, it often has more to do with exploring than with communicating," Professor Polka added.

"In fact babies typically vocalise when they are alone, without any interaction or eye contact with others. That's because to learn how to speak babies need to spend lots of time moving their mouths and vocal cords to understand the kind of sounds they can make themselves.

"They need, quite literally, to 'find their own voice'."

A previous study from Charles Sturt University in Australia, babies aged six to 18-months were able to communicate with each other, before they had learned to speak, through gestures like noises, humour and shared play during a series of tests.

Professor Jennifer Sumsion, who was involved in he study, said researchers were surprised to see that babies "were much more capable at a young age than we had anticipated".

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