Harvard researchers found that lullabies in different languages have the same effect on babies. Scientists described their results in the journal Nature Human Behavior.
Scientists have long known that music helps children not only learn about the world, but also calms them down. Previously, researchers linked the “relaxing” effect of lullabies to the fact that the baby hears the familiar voice of the parents and this gives him a sense of security. The authors of the new work decided to find out if this is really so or the secret of “soothing” songs in something else.
As it turned out, babies react in the same way to lullabies in different languages, sung in an unfamiliar voice. It’s all about the universal elements of the song. Scientists came to this conclusion after an experiment in which children watched an animated video of two characters singing either a lullaby or a regular song. To study the reactions of infants, the researchers focused on pupil dilation, changes in heart rate, EAC (bioelectric response at the surface of the skin), blink rate, and gaze direction. As a rule, while listening to lullabies in children, there was a decrease in heart rate and dilated pupils, as well as a weakening of the EAC.
Interestingly, the songs for this study were selected during the previous work of the authors. Previously, they played foreign musical compositions to adults and asked them to rate the songs and categorize them: lullaby, dance, love song, etc. A total of 16 songs were selected in languages such as Scottish (Gaelic), Hopi, etc. western Nahuatl, as well as several compositions with dialects from Polynesia, Central America and the Middle East.
The study authors conclude that melody and rhythm are the main factors for infants. It is these two indicators that make lullabies universal. It is important that the songs to which the children reacted were also recognized as “lullabies” by their parents: adults said that they would put such a song to their child even in an unknown language.
One of the authors of the work, Mila Berloto, said that the obtained “results indicate the effectiveness of music.” “This puzzle piece [research on lullabies] helps us understand some of the musical effects that can be applied as therapy in a clinical setting. Now we want to know if the factors that calm babies will affect adults, ”the authors summarize.