Infant preferences for infant-directed versus noninfant-directed playsongs and lullabies

Article (PDF Available)inInfant Behavior and Development 19(1):83-92 · March 1996with 452 Reads
DOI: 10.1016/S0163-6383(96)90046-6
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Each of 15 mothers was recorded singing a song of her choice to her 4- to 7-month-old and singing the same song alone. Adult raters were very accurate at distinguishing infant-directed from infant-absent versions, and the former were independently rated as more loving than the latter. Most of the songs were consistently classified as either playsongs or lullabies. The infant-directed playsongs were rated as relatively more rhythmic than the infant-directed lullabies, in comparison to the infant-absent versions. These results suggest that playsongs and lullabies may be distinct and used to communicate different information. Infant preferences were tested for three playsong and three lullaby pairs in a preferential looking paradigm. Infants preferred the infant-directed over infant-absent versions for five of the six pairs. Furthermore, the degree of preference was correlated with the adult ratings of loving tone of voice. The results indicate that mothers modify their singing in the presence of their infants, that infants attend to these changes, that playsongs and lullabies are likely distinct musical styles differing in their rhythmic quality, and that what adults perceive to be a loving tone of voice is highly salient to infants.
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Infant Preferences for Infant-Directed Versus
Noninfant-Directed Playsongs and Lullabies
M&laster University
Each of 15 mothers was recorded singing a song of her choice to her 4- to 7-month-old and
singing the same song alone. Adult raters were very accurate at distinguishing infant-directed
from infant-absent versions, and the former were independently rated as more loving than the lat-
ter. Most of the songs were consistently classified as either playsongs or lullabies. The infant-
directed playsongs were rated as relatively mote rhythmic than the infant-directed lullabies, in
comparison to the infant-absent versions. These results suggest that playsongs and lullabies may
be distinct and used to communicate different information. Infant preferences were tested for
three playsong and three lullaby pairs in a preferential looking paradigm. Infants preferred the
infant-directed over infant-absent versions for five of the six pairs. Furthermore, the degree of
preference was correlated with the adult ratings of loving tone of voice. The results indicate that
mothers modify their singing in the presence of their infants, that infants attend to these changes,
that playsongs and lullabies are likely distinct musical styles differing in their rhythmic quality,
and that what adults perceive to be a loving tone of voice is highly salient to infants.
music infantdirected singing preference lullaby playsang
Both music and language are complex commu-
nication systems. The spontaneous use of music
and language is universal and unique to human
culture. However, most developmental research
has focused on the language system. Preverbal
infants are very responsive to speech, even
though individual words do not have meaning
for them (e.g., Femald, 1991; PapouSek, 1992;
Papo&ek & PapouSek, 1991). In turn, care-
givers talk to their infants, although they realize
that the infants are not able to discern the
semantic content of that speech. Recent
research has shown, however, that such inter-
changes involve considerable communication.
In particular, young infants attend to the intona-
tion patterns of the mother’s voice (Femald &
Kuhl, 1987), and these do appear to have at
least affective meaning for them (e.g., Femald,
1993; Papotiek, Bomstein, Nuzzo, Papocek,
& Symmes, 1990). For example, falling pitch
contours are soothing, rising contours elicit
attention, bell-shaped contours reward and
encourage, and short, low, narrow contours
inhibit or stop an action (Femald, 1991).
This research was supported by grants from the Natural
Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and
the Science and Engineering Research Board of McMaster
University. I am grateful to Terri L. Lewis for helpful com-
ments on an earlier draft.
Correspondence and requests for reprints should be sent
to Laurel J. Trainor, Department of Psychology, McMaster
University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L8S 4Kl.
It is well documented that infants prefer to
listen to infant-directed over adult-directed
speech (e.g., Cooper & Aslin, 1990; Femald,
1985). Furthermore, the differences between
the two types of speech appear to involve musi-
cal characteristics. Infant-directed speech in
most, if not all, cultures is more rhythmic, higher
in pitch, and contains slower, more exaggerated
pitch contours than adult-directed speech (e.g.,
Femald, 1991). Thus, infants’ response to
speech is based on musical qualities: The
melody is the message (Femald, 1989).
Several functions have been proposed for
infant-directed speech, including directing
infant attention (e.g., Cooper & Aslin, 1990;
Werker & McLeod, 1989), communicating
emotion (e.g., Femald, 1993; Werker &
McLeod, 1989), and aiding language learning
by highlighting linguistic structures such as
phrase and clause boundaries (e.g., Bernstein
Ratner, 1986; Jusczyk et al., 1992) and impor-
tant words (e.g., Femald & Mazzie, 1991;
Gleitman & Wanner, 1982).
Two aspects of music for infants have been
studied: pe$ormance characteristics, that is, the
style or manner in which the song is rendered,
and structural or form characteristics, that is, the
basic pitch and duration relations that are invari-
ant across different performances (Trehub,
Trainor, & Unyk, 1993; Trehub, Unyk, &
Trainor, 1993a, 1993b; Unyk, Trehub, Trainor,
& Schellenberg, 1992). Lullabies and adult
a4 Trainor
songs may be structurally distinct. Trehub et al.
(1993a) collected pairs of lullabies and adult
songs from field recordings from around the
world. The pairs were matched for tempo,
singing style, and orchestration. Western adult
raters were above chance levels at identifying
the lullaby in each pair, and there was no differ-
ence between performance on Western versus
non-western selections. Furthermore, the same
pattern of results emerged when performance
characteristics were systematically removed by
filtering out the higher frequencies or by playing
the tunes on a synthesizer. Listeners cited sim-
plicity and repetitiveness as criteria for lullaby
identification, and independent ratings, gathered
in a subsequent study, revealed that lullabies
were rated as more simple in structure than their
adult matches (Unyk et al., 1992).
To examine the effects of performance modi-
fications made in the presence of infants, Trehub
et al. (1993b) recorded English-speaking and
Hindi-speaking mothers singing a song of their
choice to their infant and singing the same song
in the absence of their infant. Adult raters were
able to distinguish which versions were infant
directed, although performance was superior
when mothers and raters had the same cultural
background. Interestingly, English-speaking
mothers tended to sing arousing songs and play
with their infants, whereas Hindi-speaking moth-
ers tended to sing soothing songs, suggesting that
there may be distinct types of singing to infants.
The precise differences between infant-directed
and noninfant-directed singing remain somewhat
mysterious. However, one study revealed that
mothers’ infant-directed singing is slower in
tempo and rendered in a more “smiling tone of
voice” (as rated by adults) than noninfant-direct-
ed singing (Trehub et al., in press).
Although research on infants’ response to
music is scanty, there is considerable anecdotal
and cross-cultural evidence that music is im-
portant in infancy. Anthropological sources sug-
gest that the lullaby is a musical form that is
found around the world, in cultures as diverse as
Vietnamese, Hazara (central Afghanistan),
Columbian, and North American Indian (Trehub
et al., 1993a). The purpose of a lullaby is literally
to lull an infant to sleep. This suggests, then, that
music has the power to alter infants’ state.
Music is found in every known human soci-
ety. When the role of music in human culture in
general is considered, it is perhaps not surpris-
ing that infants respond to music and that
infants initially pay attention to the musical ele-
ments of speech. Music is closely linked to
emotional expression (e.g., Bever, 1988; Cooke,
1959; Langer, 1957; Meyer, 1956). Music can
both communicate information about emotion
and evoke a direct emotional response
(Thompson & Robitaille, 1992; Trainor &
Trehub, 1992). It is the direct emotional
response that sets music and language apart.
Music is associated with physiological responses,
such as pulse rate, respiration rate, blood pres-
sure, and electrical resistance of the skin (e.g.,
Winner, 1982), as well as physical responses,
such as shivers down the spine, laughter, tears,
and lump in the throat (Sloboda, 1991). Across
many societies, music is associated with magi-
cal powers, medicine, and healing (Schullian &
Schoen, 197 1; Tyson, 198 I). The field of music
therapy is flourishing in contemporary Western
society, offering help to the mentally retarded,
elderly, physically disabled, autistic, learning
disabled, and those with various psychiatric and
medical conditions such as sensory disorders,
stroke, and traumatic brain injury (Davis,
Gfeller, & Thaut, 1992). In pediatrics, music is
being used to stimulate and pacify premature
infants (Standley, 1991), reduce anxiety and
manage pain during labor (Gonzalez, 1989),
and decrease stress in hospitalized infants and
toddlers (Marley, 1984).
What is the function of infant-directed
singing? First, an infant preference for infant-
directed over noninfant-directed singing would
suggest that the former serves to attract the
infant’s attention to the caregiver. Second, the
close ties between music and emotion and the
cross-cultural prevalence of the lullaby suggest
that infant-directed singing may function to
regulate infant state. In this case, it would be
expected that different styles of infant-directed
singing would be used under different caretak-
ing circumstances and would convey different
affective meanings to the infant. In particu!ar,
one type of singing might be designed to soothe
(lullabies), and another might be designed to
arouse and engage the infant in play (play-
songs). In speech, emotion can be carried by
both voice timbre and prosodic features (e.g.,
Frick, 1985; Kappas, Hess, & Scherer, 1991;
Scherer, 1986). Infants can discriminate emo-
tional expressions conveyed in speech (Caron,
Caron. & MacLean, 1988) as well as abstract
Infant Preferences for Infant-Directed Singing 85
auditory patterns, such as an ascending versus a
descending tone (Phillips, Wagner, Fells, &
Lynch, 1990). In music, the pitch is relatively
fixed, so different emotions would presumably
be conveyed by such features as overall musi-
cal structure, rhythmic variation, voice timbre,
amplitude fluctuations, or small pitch perturba-
tions and glides.
A third possible function of infant-directed
singing is to teach infants about auditory pat-
tern structure, that is, about phrase structure,
rhythm, and expectancy. In this case, one might
expect infant-directed singing to be character-
ized by features such as exaggerated rhythm
and longer pauses between phrases. It has been
established that infants encode the phrase struc-
ture of simple musical excerpts (Krumhansl &
Jusczyk, 1990), discriminate various rhythmic
patterns (Allen, Walker, Symonds, & Marcell,
1977; Demany, McKenzie, & Vurpillot, 1977;
Mendelson, 1986; Morrongiello, 1984), and
categorize on the basis of rhythm (Trehub &
Thorpe, 1989). Furthermore, infants produce
rhythmic sequences (babbling) early on (Kent,
Mitchell, & Sancier, 1991), and their reduplica-
tive babbling reflects the rhythmic stress struc-
ture of their language of exposure (Levitt &
Wang, 1991). English-learning infants prefer to
listen to two-syllable utterances with a
strong/weak stress pattern (the predominant
stress pattern of English) over a weak/strong
stress pattern (Jusczyk, Cutler, & Redanz,
1993). As well, infants more readily detect
pauses inserted within a clause than between
clauses, suggesting sensitivity to clause bound-
aries (Hirsh-Pasek et al., 1987). Exaggerated
rhythm in infant-directed singing might func-
tion both to attract infant attention and eluci-
date the temporal structure of the music.
The main purpose of this research was to
test infant preferences for infant-directed versus
noninfant-directed singing. Adult ratings of var-
ious aspects of naturalistic recordings of moth-
ers singing were obtained in Experiment 1. On
the basis of these results, three lullaby and three
playsong pairs were selected for the infant pref-
erence test in Experiment 2.
Experiment 1 had two main goals. The first was
to obtain naturalistic recordings of mothers
singing the same song to their infant and in the
absence of their infant for use in a subsequent
infant preference test. The second goal was to
use adult ratings to examine possible distinc-
tions between infant-directed songs with differ-
ent functions, specifically between lullabies
and playsongs. Adults were asked to identify
which samples were infant directed. As well,
different groups of adults rated whether the
samples were lullabies or playsongs, and
whether the infant-directed versions were more
rhythmic and rendered in a more loving tone of
voice than their noninfant-directed matches.
The participants were 50 undergraduate students (36
females, 14 males) whose mean age was 23 years (range =
18-49 years). There were no systematic differences
between the performance of male and female participants.
Stimuli and Apparatus
Fifteen mothers, recruited from local hospital maternity
wards, were recorded singing a song of their choice (it was
not necessary to offer suggestions) to their infant and
singing the same song in the absence of their infant, with the
order (infant present/absent) counterbalanced across moth-
ers. The mothers ranged from 20 to 39 years of age (M = 29
years), and their infants were between 4 and 7 months of
age (M = 4.9 months). Mothers were not aware of the
hypotheses of the experiment. Mothers who first sang to
their infant were simply asked to sing the same song after-
wards (without their infant) so we could obtain another
recording. Mothers who first sang in the absence of their
infant were told we wanted recordings of songs normally
sung to infants. No indication was given as to whether we
desired a lullaby or a playsong. Recordings were made in
a comfortable, quiet room in the laboratory with a high-
quality portable tape recorder (Marantz PMD 420) using a
lapel microphone (Sony ECM 155). Most mothers chose to
hold their infant while singing, although an infant seat was
available. All infants were healthy, born at term, and both
mothers and infants were free of colds at the time of the
recording. An additional 7 recordings were unusable: 5
because the mother failed to sing in the absence of her infant,
or sang a different song in the infant-present and infant-absent
conditions: 1 because the mother sang too quietly to be record-
ed; and 1 because the infant cried during the entire song.
To create the tapes, portions of the two recordings (infant
present/absent) of each mother were digitized, using Sound
Edit Pro on a Macintosh IIci computer with an Audiomedia
II card (Digidesign). These samples included as much of the
original recordings as possible, provided that there was not
excessive infant noise, and exactly the same phrases were
included in both the infant-present and infant-absent ver-
sions. The recordings varied in duration from 8 to 45 s (M =
22.4 s). Some infants responded to their mother’s singing
with occasional vocalizations. To avoid the use of this cue by
adult raters, similar infant sounds were digitally added to the
infant-absent samples, in the identical locations to those in
which they occurred in the infant-directed samples.
For the paired comparison ratings, two tapes were cre-
ated in which each of the 15 paired comparison trials con-
86 Trainor
sisted of the two versions (infant present/absent) of one
mother. Each tape used a different random order of the
recordings, both within trials (infant-present/absent condi-
tions) and across trials (mothers).
An additional four tapes were created for the single
sample ratings, two consisting of different random orders
of the infant-present recordings only, and two consisting of
different random orders of the infant-absent recordings
only. Again there were 15 single sample trials (mothers) on
each tape. Tapes were presented to adult raters through the
Marantz PMD 420 tape recorder and audiological head-
phones (Telephonics TDH 49P).
Five groups of adults (10 per group) rated different aspects
of the singing samples. Three of the groups used the paired
comparison tapes (see Stimuli and Apparatus section).
Participants in the first group were told that some songs
were recorded in the presence of an infant and others were
not. On each of the 15 trials, they were asked to indicate
whether the first or second sample of singing was recorded
in the presence of an infant. The second and third groups of
adults were not informed of the nature of the recordings,
that is, that some were recorded in the presence of an
infant, whereas others were not. The second group was
asked to rate which of the two singing samples on each trial
was most rhythmic. The third group was asked to rate
which of the two singing samples was rendered in the most
loving tone of voice. Half of the participants in each group
(i.e., 5) listened to one paired comparison tape, while the
other half listened to the other, to reduce any systematic
effects of stimulus order.
The fourth group of adults listened to the tapes of
infant-present single sample trials, and the fifth group lis-
tened to the tapes of infant-absent single sample trials, On
each trial, they were asked to rate whether the singer was
attempting to put an infant to sleep (subsequently designated
lullah~) or to arouse and play with an infant (subsequently
designated pluming).
Results and Discussion
Preliminary ANOVAs with tape (order) and
mother as factors revealed no significant differ-
ences between performance on the two tapes in
any condition, so all subsequent analyses were
collapsed over tape.
To examine whether adult raters were signif-
icantly above chance levels at identifying
which samples were infant directed, the percent
correct across raters in Group 1 was calculated
for each trial (mother). Performance was high
(M = 92.7% correct, SD = 9.6) and significantly
above chance, t( 14) = 17.19, p < .OOO 1.
Similar analyses were conducted to deter-
mine whether the infant-directed samples were
rated as more loving. The percentage of adults
in Group 2 who rated the infant-directed ver-
sion as more loving was calculated for each
trial. Overall, the infant-directed versions were
rated as more loving 82.7% of the time (SD =
22.5), which was significantly above chance
levels, t( 14) = 5.62, p < .OOOl.
To test whether infant-directed versions
were rated as more rhythmic, the percentage of
adults in Group 3 who rated the infant-directed
version as more rhythmic was calculated for
each trial. There was no significant difference
between the infant-present and infant-absent
conditions, t(14) = 1.05, p > .15. Overall, the
infant-directed versions were rated as more
rhythmic 57.3% of the time (SD = 27.1).
The raters in Group 4 heard only the infant-
directed versions and were asked to classify
them according to their perceived function,
here designated as lullabies or playsongs. Three
of the recordings were classified as play-
songs by 100% of the raters, and a further 3
recordings by 90% of the raters. Two of the
recordings were classified as lullabies by 100%
of the raters, and a further 2 recordings by
80% of the raters. Thus, for 10 of the 15
recordings, at least, there was high consistency
among raters in classifying the function of the
song. To examine whether these differences
could be quantified further, the correlation
between how often each infant-directed record-
ing was classified as a playsong versus as a lul-
laby (Group 4) and how often that infant-directed
version was rated as more rhythmic than its
infant-absent pair (Group 3) was calculated.
This correlation was significantly above chance
levels, n = 15, r = .60, p < .02, indicating that
infant-directed playsongs tended to be rated as
relatively more rhythmic than infant-directed
lullabies in comparison to infant-absent ver-
sions. The infant-directed versions of the 6
playsongs identified above were rated as more
rhythmic than their infant-absent pairs 73.3%
of the time (SD = 20.7), whereas the infant-
absent versions of the 4 lullabies were rated as
more rhythmic 60.0% of the time (SD = 23.1)
Was the playsong/lullaby classification
based solely on the choice of song (i.e., struc-
tural or form characteristics), or did the
singing style (i.e., performance characteristics)
make a contribution? As can be seen in Table
1, those infant-directed versions rated as
playsongs were generally playsongs in form.
However, Row, ROW, Row Your Boat (desig-
nated as a playsong) would normally be
expected to be soothing. On the other hand,
only one of those rated as a lullaby was actual-
ly a lullaby in form (Rock-a-Bye Baby). This
Infant Preferences for Infant-Directed Singing 87
indicates that the lullaby/playsong classifica-
tion was not based solely on the form of the
song; rather, the singing style made a contribu-
tion as well. In this context, it is of interest to
ask whether the perceived function of the song
sung by a mother ever changed between the
infant-present and infant-absent versions. The
raters in Group 5 heard only the noninfant-
directed versions and were asked to classify
them as playsongs or lullabies. There was a
high correlation, n = 15, r = 230, p < .0005,
between the perceived function of the infant-
present and infant-absent versions. This is not
surprising, as mothers generally chose a song
they were used to singing to their infant and
likely had considerable practice singing it in a
particular style. At the same time, the rated
function of one song reversed completely:
Row, Row, Row Your Boat was rated as a
playsong by 90% of raters in the infant-present
version, but it was rated as a lullaby by 90%
of raters in the infant-absent version. With the
current experimental design, it is not possible
to examine the relative contributions of singing
style and musical form to the perceived func-
tion, but both appear to be involved.
The correlation between how often an
infant-directed recording was classified as a
playsong versus a lullaby (Group 4) and how
often that infant-directed version was rated as
more loving than the infant-absent version
(Group 2) was not significant. The infant-
directed versions of both playsongs and lulla-
bies were rated as more loving than the infant-
absent versions.
In summary, adult raters were very accurate
at distinguishing infant-directed from infant-
absent versions sung by the same mother, repli-
cating Trehub et al. (1993b). Furthermore, the
infant-directed versions were independently
rated as more loving than the infant-absent ver-
sions. There also appeared to be considerable
consistency among raters as to whether the
intent of the singer was to lull an infant to sleep
or rouse and play with an infant. Furthermore,
those recordings that were rated as playsongs
were also rated as more rhythmic than their
infant-absent pairs, whereas those recordings
that were rated as lullabies were also rated as
less rhythmic than their infant-absent pairs.
These results indicate not only that lullabies and
playsongs may be distinct, but that they likely
differ with respect to their rhythmic qualities.
Classification of Songs Sung by Mothers
Songs Classified as Playsongs by 80%
or More of Raters
Baa Baa Black Sheep
Inky Dinky Spider
Row, Row, Row Your Boat
Songs Classified as Lullabies by 80%
or More of Raters
Barney’s Theme Song
Puff the Magic Dragon
Rock-a-Bye Baby
You Are My Sunshine
Remaining Songs
Barney’s Theme Song
Five Little Ducks
Inky Dinky Spider
There’s a Hole in My Bucket
In Experiment 2, infant preferences for infant-
directed versus infant-absent versions of the
same song sung by the same mother were test-
ed using six of the pairs of recordings from
Experiment 1. Trials of infant-directed music
(presented from a loudspeaker on one side of
the infant) and infant-absent music (presented
from a loudspeaker on the other side) alternat-
ed, with the initial type of music and side of
presentation randomized across infants. Infants
controlled the length of each trial, as the music
remained on until the infant looked away. Thus,
the amount of time each type of music was
played reflected infant preferences.
Sixty infants between the age of 5 months, 8 days and
6 months, 29 days (M = 5 months, 29 days) were tested. All
were healthy, born at term (38-42 weeks, over 2,500 gms),
and were free of colds on the day of testing. A further
2 infants were excluded due to fussiness.
Six infant-present/infant-absent pairs of recordings from
Experiment 1 were chosen, based on the adult rating results
of Experiment 1, according to the following criteria. Three
were rated highly as playsongs (by lOO%, 90%, 90% of
raters in Experiment 1) and three as lullabies (by lOO%,
lOO%, 80% of raters). In all cases, the infant-present/infant-
absent conditions were clearly distinguished (100%. lCO%,
90% accuracy for the playsongs; 100%. lOO%, 80% for the
lullabies). The recordings varied in duration from 16 to 41 s
(M = 25.4 s). Within each pair, durations were approxi-
8% Trainor
mately equal. Recall that in all cases, occasional infant
vocahzations in the infant-directed versions were matched
in the infant-absent versions by digitally adding similar
infant sounds, in identical positions, to the latter.
The digitized versions of the recordings (see Experiment 1)
were presented via the Macintosh IIci computer through a
Denon amplifier (PMA-480R) to audiology loudspeakers
(GSI) located in a sound-attenuating chamber (Industrial
Acoustics Company). One speaker was located on the
infant’s right and the other on the infant’s left. Under each
speaker was a toy in a box with a smoked Plexiglas front,
such that when a light was illuminated inside the box, the
toy became visible. The computer controlled the experi-
mental procedure. A custom-built interface box connected
the button box (used by the experimenter to signal to the
computer) and lights to the computer.
Infants were tested individually in a preference procedure
modified from Femald (1985). The two versions of one song
(infant present/infant absent) were played in alternation, with
the length of each presentation contingent on the infant’s
head-turning behavior. There were six groups of 10 infants;
each group was presented with one of the six pairs of record-
ings. Infants sat on their parent’s lap in the sound-attenuating
chamber, facing the experimenter. Both the parent and the
experimenter listened to masking music presented through
headphones, so they were unaware of what the infant was
hearing. Furthermore, the experimenter was not aware of
which music was being presented on which side for each
subject. During each experiment. infant-directed singing was
always presented on one side (right or left) and infant-absent
singing on the other, with half of the infants receiving infant-
directed singing on the right and half on the left. The side of
presentation alternated between trials, with the initial side
(right/left) randomized across subjects, and crossed with
which type of singing was presented on each side. The sound
stimuli and lights were controlled by the computer. When the
experimenter had the infant’s attention (i.e., the infant faced
forward), she pressed one button on the button box (held
under a small table out of the infant’? view) to initiate a trial.
This caused the light on one side to begin flashing (400 ms
off, 400 ms on). illuminating the toy in the box under the
speaker. When the infant turned to look at the light and toy.
the experimenter pressed a second button which resulted in
the presentation of the appropriate singing for that side. The
light remained on but ceased to flash during the sound pres-
entation. The experimenter held down the button while the
infant looked at the toy. The sound presentation continued
until the infant looked away for at least 2 S. and the looking
time was recorded by the computer. The light (which could
he seen hy the experimenter) and sound were extinguished al
the end of the trial. The next trial was initiated when the
experimenter again had the infant’s attention forward.
Subsequent trials of the same music continued from where
the previous trial of that type had ended, and when the end 01
the excerpt was reached, it began again from the beginning.
Testing ended when the infant completed 20 trials (IO of
each version) or accumulated 6 min of total looking time.
Results and Discussion
All infants completed 20 trials. The looking
time varied from 0.0 to 55.7 s per trial (M =
Pl P2 P3 Ll L2 L3
Figure 1. The mean percentage of infants’
total looking time that produced the infant-
directed (ID) version for the three playsong
(Pl, P2, P3) and three lullaby (11, 12, 13)
pairs. Error bars represent the standard
error of the mean.
7.5 s). There were no significant differences
across the six mothers in mean looking time to
either the infant-present or the infant-absent
versions. Analyses were conducted on the pro-
portion of time the infant-directed version was
played across the 20 trials for each infant, that
is, the amount of time the infant looked in
response to the infant-directed version was
divided by the amount of time the infant looked
to both versions. For the playsongs, an
ANOVA revealed that there were no significant
differences between the three groups of infants,
that is, between the infants’ preferences across
the three mothers (see Figure 1). Thus, the data
were collapsed across mothers. A two-tailed
t test revealed that infants looked significantly
longer to the infant-directed versions (i.e., pro-
portion of infant-directed looking time com-
pared to chance level of SO), t(29) = 6.12,
p < .OOOl (M infant-directed proportion looking
time = .59, SD = ,076).
For the lullabies, an ANOVA showed that
infant preferences varied across the three
groups of infants, F(2,27) = 18.13. /, < .OOOl
(see Figure 1). Infants preferred the infant-
directed version of two of the three lullaby
pairs, t(9) = 5.18, p < .0006, t(9) = 2.91.
p < ,016 (M infant-directed proportion looking
times = .62, ~59, SDS = .07. .lO, respectively).
For the third pair of lullabies, however, infants
strongly preferred the infant-absent version,
t(9) = -4.12, p < .0026 (M infant-directed pro-
portion looking time = .42. SD = .06). (With
Infant Preferences for Infant-Directed Singing a9
the Bonferroni correction for three tests, the
significance level is .017.)
The infant-absent preference for the one lul-
laby pair is somewhat puzzling. One possibility
is that the lullaby message (i.e., go to sleep) did
not match the mood of the infants being tested,
who are typically wide awake and alert in the
laboratory setting. However, this does not
explain the dramatic differences in the effects
of the three lullaby pairs. It should be noted that
all three infant-directed versions were easily
identified and consistently rated as lullabies by
the adults in Experiment 1. In fact, for the pair
in which infants preferred the infant-absent ver-
sion, adult performance was 100% correct at
identifying the infant-directed version, and
100% of adults rated it as a lullaby. These
results indicate that adult ratings must be treated
with caution, as they may or may not corre-
spond precisely with infant perceptions.
To look for possible differences between the
lullaby pairs, the other adult ratings of Experi-
ment 1 were examined. The infant-directed ver-
sions of the two pairs for which the infants pre-
ferred that version received high loving-
tone-of-voice ratings (rated as more loving
100% and 70% of the time), whereas the infant-
directed version of the pair for which infants
preferred the infant-absent version was rated as
more loving only 50% of the time, which was
in fact the lowest loving rating of all 15
excerpts. Furthermore, when all six pairs of
Experiment 2 were considered, there was a sig-
nificant correlation between the mean percent
infant-directed looking time and rated loving
tone of voice, n = 6, r = .88, p < .02. This asso-
ciation between infant preference and loving
tone of voice suggests that the loving tone of
voice may be highly salient to infants.
In general, the infants preferred to listen to
infant-directed over noninfant-directed singing.
This lends support to the notion that one func-
tion of singing to infants is to attract their atten-
tion. It is interesting that caregivers modify
both their speech and their singing when
addressing infants. However, the extent to
which such modifications are in common
across both systems is not clear. Obviously, the
exaggerated pitch contours of infant-directed
speech are not possible in infant-directed
singing, because the pitch is highly constrained
by the musical structure in the latter case.
On the other hand, rhythmic modifications,
including final-phrase syllable lengthening and
duration/intensity increases on important words
or notes, may operate in a similar fashion
across the two systems.
Adult raters showed high consistency in
classifying most of the 15 infant-directed sam-
ples as either playsongs or lullabies, suggesting
that playsongs and lullabies may be distinct in
function. Further support for this distinction
comes from the independent ratings of rhythm.
Those samples classified as lullabies were rated
as less rhythmic than their noninfant-directed
matches, whereas those classified as playsongs
were rated as more rhythmic. This result may
seem surprising in light of the popular notion
that rhythmic movement and sound puts infants
to sleep, for example, rocking an infant in a
position where he or she can hear the care-
giver’s heart beat. Rhythm is a very difficult
term to define (Fraisse, 1982), although people
appear to have an intuitive notion of rhythm
(Gabrielsson, 1993). Rhythm has a number of
aspects. It is important to distinguish regularity,
as in repeating isochronous intervals or beats,
and rhythm as accentuation, as in exaggeration
of the underlying grouping structure (i.e., a dif-
ferentiation of stronger and weaker beats). In
the latter case, rhythm serves the function of
segmenting a sequence of elements into hierar-
chical groups (Martin, 1972), by differentiating
the elements (e.g., every fourth element louder,
longer, or different in pitch). Thus, high regu-
larity of beat (e.g., heart beat) does not lead to
the perception of high rhythmicity; rather, dif-
ferentiation of the elements is necessary.
Trehub et al. (1993a) found that lullabies were
highly repetitive. This does not mean, however,
that the rhythm (accentuation) was exaggerated
or highly salient. In this light, the high rhyth-
micity ratings assigned to the playsongs may be
interpreted as the highlighting of the grouping
or phrase structure of the songs. Thus, this
rhythmic exaggeration may serve a didactic
function. The low rhythmicity ratings assigned
to the lullabies may be interpreted as an
increase in regularity achieved by a decrease in
differentiation of elements.
Although adult raters appeared to be consis-
tent in their lullaby/playsong classifications,
further research is needed to establish whether
these types of singing are in fact used in differ-
90 Trainor
ent caretaking contexts, whether they are effec-
tive in changing infants’ states, and whether
acoustic analyses can reveal reliable differences
between them. Further research is also needed
to examine whether lullabies and playsongs are
structurally distinct, or whether they simply
represent different styles of performance. For
example, it would be interesting to observe
what type of song a caregiver chose to sing
when instructed to either play with their infant
or try to put their infant to sleep, in cases where
this was either consistent or inconsistent with
the infant’s state. These recordings could be
compared to recordings where mothers were
instructed to sing the same song in the opposite
caretaking context, that is, to compare lullaby-
style and playsong-style versions of the same
song sung by the same mother. Recent evi-
dence suggests that the types of modifications
made in infant-directed speech change with the
age and competencies of the infant (Papodek,
1993). Similar changes may occur in infant-
directed singing. The needs and competencies
of young infants (e.g., they sleep a lot and are
less interested in exploring the world) in com-
parison to older infants (who are more actively
responsive) may lead to more soothing singing
to young infants and more rousing, rhythmic
singing to older infants.
The mothers in this study adopted a more
loving tone of voice when singing to their
infants in comparison to singing in the absence
of their infants. The infant-directed versions of
both playsongs and lullabies were rated as more
loving than the noninfant-directed versions
83% of the time. Furthermore, these values
ranged between 70% and 100% for 14 of the 15
sample pairs. The significant correlation
between infant looking preference and adult
loving ratings suggests that infants responded
to the loving tone of voice. Furthermore, the
adult loving rating for the 1 pair in which
infants preferred the noninfant-directed version
was only 50%.
These results suggest that the positive emo-
tion conveyed by the mother’s tone of voice is
highly salient to infants. Acoustic analyses are
underway to examine the physical basis of this
effect. In particular, there is reason to believe
that the formant structure of the vowels may be
altered in the infant-directed versions. It is
quite reasonable to expect that mothers smile
when singing to their infants. Tartter (1980)
and Ohala (1980) found that smiling alters the
shape of the vocal tract, resulting in higher fun-
damental and formant frequencies in speech. In
singing, the fourth formant appears to be a par-
ticularly important determinant of voice quality
(Sundberg, 1987). In addition, perturbations of
the fundamental frequency (jitter and shimmer)
likely increase with emotional intensity (Kappas
et al., 1991; Scherer, 1986).
It can be concluded that mothers alter their
singing in the presence of their infant, and that
infants prefer to listen to infant-directed over
noninfant-directed singing. Further research is
needed to confirm the functions of these modi-
fications. However, the evidence suggests that
infant-directed singing attracts infants’ atten-
tion, and that mothers use the emotional quali-
ties of singing to regulate their infant’s state,
arousing their infant in some circumstances and
soothing their infant in others. In both cases,
mothers appear to convey positive emotions,
singing with a loving tone of voice. The rela-
tions between infant-directed speech and
infant-directed singing remain unclear. How-
ever, it is likely that both serve some common
functions, such as using rhythmic devises to
highlight phrase structure and important words
and tones. These in turn may aid the infant in
learning to parse the complex auditory streams
that are speech and music.
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29 June 1994; Revised 28 April 1995 n
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    Paired excerpts of lullabies and comparison songs from different areas of the world were presented to Western adult listeners, who were required to identify the lullaby in each pair. In Experiment 1, when presented with original field recordings, adults successfully differentiated the lullabies from the other songs. In Experiment 2, this effect was replicated with a more diverse sample of listeners. In addition, feedback about correct performance failed to improve the accuracy of lullaby identification. In Experiment 3, adults successfully identified the lullabies even when all songs were electronically filtered to remove the words. In Experiment 4, adults were unsuccessful in lullaby identification when the melodies were synthesized to remove residual cues associated with voice quality. However, performance on the synthesized materials was correlated with performance on the original materials. Parallels between infant-directed music and infant-directed speech are noted.