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marketrent OP t1_j3u13hd wrote

Findings in title quoted from the lead author’s summary, “Happy rather than sad music soothes newborns” in The Conversation, 5 Jan. 2023.


>Our team looked at how music affected healthy newborns, who were carried to term. First, we wanted to select a music piece that was really happy, and another that was really sad.

>Two experimenters collected and listened to hundreds of lullabies and children’s songs and selected 25 of these that sounded happy or sad. Only six of these were sung in English (Simple Simon, Humpty Dumpty, Hey Diddle Diddle, Little Miss Muffet, Ding Dong Bell, Little Bo Beep) while the others were in various other languages.

>A French lullaby entitled Fais Dodo (by Alexandra Montano and Ruth Cunningham) was found to be the saddest, while a German song, Das singende Känguru (by Volker Rosin), was ranked the happiest.

>We played these two songs in random order – along with a silent control period – to 32 babies in a first experiment.

>We also analysed how 20 behaviours, such as crying, yawning, sucking, sleeping and limb movements changed millisecond by millisecond during the music pieces and the silence, respectively.


>In a second experiment, we recorded the heart rates of 66 newborn infants while they were listening to these two songs or silence.

>Perhaps the most striking results was that babies started to downshift to sleep during happy music, but not to sad music or when there was no music.

>Also, they showed a decrease in their heart rates during happy music but not during sad music or silent periods, suggesting they were getting calmer.

>In response to both happy and sad music, babies also moved their eyes less frequently and and there were longer pauses between their movements compared with the silence period. This might mean that both types of music had some calming effect on the babies compared with no music, but happy music was the best.

>Our results suggest that newborns thus do react to emotions in music, and that responses to music are present at birth.

Nagy, E., Cosgrove, R., Robertson, N. et al. Neonatal Musicality: Do Newborns Detect Emotions in Music?. Psychological Studies 67, 501–513 (2022).


LoquatBear t1_j3u4p2h wrote

Really interesting that there is an innate reaction to "happy" or "sad" music. I wonder if this was done with a larger pool of children would you find variances and over time would the variances begin to accumulate across the years.

Also if babies are found that react differently to music would that reveal if there are predisposed to any number of neurodivergencies in the future.


tornpentacle t1_j3uhmnr wrote

Happy sounding music tends to be in major keys, which are much less dissonant (i.e., they are more resonant and innately pleasing to the ear). I don't know why that would be more pleasing to the ear—what evolutionary mechanism might have led to the phenomenon of music enjoyment?


mrnoonan81 t1_j3u6j16 wrote

Does this suggest that there are universal interpretations of music? Isn't what is considered "happy" music different for different cultures?


catpunch_ t1_j3u8va1 wrote

That’s what I was thinking. I thought traditionally in Russian and Eastern European music, minor chords did not have the ‘sad’ connotation they have in the West. I thought it was learned… unless they’re maybe talking about tone of singing voice or something like that


Zazenp t1_j3wmzqg wrote

This is part of ongoing research. Some studies have demonstrated it is learned while this study demonstrates that something innate may be at play.


brandolinium t1_j3uo6bq wrote

For realz. Reminds me of that whacko bit in What the $@&# Do We Know with the ugly water test. Like who’s subjective judgment are we using for this scale of change (ignoring the fact that any change actually occurs).


AccidentallyFemboy t1_j3u76uj wrote

I'm still going to play Nine Inch Nails for any spawn I have.


something_python t1_j3v9pmx wrote

My son absolutely loves the Pixies. Always has. Even since he was days old, if he was inconsolable, if I put on Debaser, he would calm down.


Sentsuizan t1_j3u44kt wrote

Music is the language of the soul


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ArcadesRed t1_j3yr98c wrote

Wait, I remember learning that babies reacted negatively to discordant music like 25 years ago. Why is this article acting like this is a new find?


summey t1_j3u4awp wrote

Our children respond to songs they “liked” (our assumption) in utero


Koffeekage t1_j3udg0b wrote

So no nine inch nails, got it.


Doktor-S-Freud t1_j3ulio9 wrote

We already know that there is universal "preference" for harmony over dissonance. "Sad" music more often uses dissonance, and "happy" music is often made to sound pleasing by emphasizing clean intervals.

Basically, this finding is like discovering that babies prefer sweet flavors over bitter ones.


ravenshroud t1_j3w9tfr wrote

This looks like George Santos learning to give white power hand gestures.