The ability to decode emotion through facial expressions and vocalisations are important tools in the mother-infant relationship. This ability may be affected by biological and environmental changes during pregnancy. Yet, little is known about how auditory perception might be different during pregnancy and after birth in humans. Music, a more abstract form of emotional communication, may also be affected by these changes in pregnancy. This study will add to our understanding of the emotional and auditory perceptions of women during the perinatal period.
This study investigates women’s perception of affective vocalisations, such as laughing and crying, and emotional music when they are not pregnant, during pregnancy and after birth.
35 pregnant women will be recruited from the London area, as well as online. Using valence ratings, we will measure the perception of emotional vocalisations of adults, infants, and animals from the Oxford Vocal (OxVoc; Parsons et al., 2014) Sounds database. Additionally, we will measure their perceptions of emotional music using the Geneva Emotional Musical Scales (GEMS 9; Zentner, Grandjean, & Scherer, 2008) test. All measurements of these perceptions will be taken during pregnancy and about 2-4 months after they have given birth. We also plan to conduct the same task with 35 age-matched controls.
Data collection is still ongoing. There are promising preliminary results of the data collected so far (N=20 pregnant women and N=19 controls). Using a MANCOVA, results indicate that pregnant women perceived infant vocalisations more positively than non-pregnant women (p < 0.01).
This is one of the first studies investigating potential differences in the perception of affective vocalisations and emotional music in women during the perinatal period. This research will provide information on how music perception is impacted by pregnancy. It will also inform future research working to create and test musical interventions to help support pregnant women.
Parsons, C. E., Young, K. S., Craske, M. G., Stein, A. L., & Kringelbach, M. L. (2014). Introducing the Oxford Vocal (OxVoc) Sounds database: a validated set of non-acted affective sounds from human infants, adults, and domestic animals. Frontiers in psychology, 5.
Zentner, M., Grandjean, D., & Scherer, K. R. (2008). Emotions evoked by the sound of music: characterization, classification, and measurement. Emotion, 8(4), 494.
Keywords: Music psychology, Pregnancy, Perception, OxVoc, GEMS, Emotion