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Infant Behav Dev. 2010 Dec;33(4):387-400. doi: 10.1016/j.infbeh.2010.04.003. Epub 2010 May 15.

Tonal synchrony in mother-infant interaction based on harmonic and pentatonic series.

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Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), Brussels, Belgium.


This study reports the occurrence of 'tonal synchrony' as a new dimension of early mother-infant interaction synchrony. The findings are based on a tonal and temporal analysis of vocal interactions between 15 mothers and their 3-month-old infants during 5 min of free-play in a laboratory setting. In total, 558 vocal exchanges were identified and analysed, of which 84% reflected harmonic or pentatonic series. Another 10% of the exchanges contained absolute and/or relative pitch and/or interval imitations. The total durations of dyads being in tonal synchrony were normally distributed (M=3.71, SD=2.44). Vocalisations based on harmonic series appeared organised around the major triad, containing significantly more simple frequency ratios (octave, fifth and third) than complex ones (non-major triad tones). Tonal synchrony and its characteristics are discussed in relation to infant-directed speech, communicative musicality, pre-reflective communication and its impact on the quality of early mother-infant interaction and child's development.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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