Photo by Thinkstock
You may feel silly speaking to your baby in a high-pitched, squeaky voice while reading to him or playing games. But a new study conducted by Brigham Young University found that babies are much more likely to remember experiences if there is a positive emotion or affect attached to them.
Researchers rounded up a group of 5-month-old infants and exposed them to either positive, negative, or neutral-sounding voices while showing them geometric shapes. They repeated the exercise over several days, showing them the same shapes, along with new ones. Results showed that babies best remembered a shape when it was associated with a happy voice or face.
“Cheerful, upbeat, positive voices promote learning, language, and memory,” Ross Flom, PhD, a professor of psychology, tells Yahoo Parenting, “The idea, positivity heightens attention span and when babies are attentive, they’re better able to process information and form memories.” The trick is to use baby talk at specific times. “If a baby is fussy, it’s better to soothe him,” says Flom. “Wait until he’s in a better mood before using a high-pitched voice and let his cues guide you.”
Science has long proved how remarkably early memory forms in babies. Finnish researchers recently found that as a fetus is developing, particularly in the third trimester, it can hear sounds from the world and even retain them after birth. “If you put your hand over your mouth and speak, that’s very similar to the situation the fetus is in,” cognitive neuroscientist Eino Partanen of the University of Helsinki, told Science magazine. “You can hear the rhythm of speech, rhythm of music, and so on.” In fact, one behavioral study conducted in 1988 found that newborns could recognize the theme song from their mother’s favorite soap opera (seriously).
That said, don’t bother trying to “teach” your unborn baby how to say “Mama,” for example. According to Partanen, there’s no evidence that anything other than the sounds of daily life are beneficial. Ditto for placing earbuds playing classical music on a mother’s pregnant stomach — doing so can disrupt a baby’s sleep cycle.
Still, it’s inevitable that babies will encounter negativity from time to time. So if you find yourself having an argument with your husband or are playing an action movie too loudly where the baby is playing, he or she won’t suffer any longterm consequences. “You won’t scar the baby,” says Flom.