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Psychol Sci. 2016 Apr;27(4):486-501. doi: 10.1177/0956797615626691. Epub 2016 Feb 25.

For 5-Month-Old Infants, Melodies Are Social.

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Graduate School of Education Department of Psychology, Harvard University
Department of Psychology, Harvard University.


For 1 to 2 weeks, 5-month-old infants listened at home to one of two novel songs with identical lyrics and rhythms, but different melodies; the song was sung by a parent, emanated from a toy, or was sung live by a friendly but unfamiliar adult first in person and subsequently via interactive video. We then tested the infants' selective attention to two novel individuals after one sang the familiar song and the other sang the unfamiliar song. Infants who had experienced a parent singing looked longer at the new person who had sung the familiar melody than at the new person who had sung the unfamiliar melody, and the amount of song exposure at home predicted the size of that preference. Neither effect was observed, however, among infants who had heard the song emanating from a toy or being sung by a socially unrelated person, despite these infants' remarkable memory for the familiar melody, tested an average of more than 8 months later. These findings suggest that melodies produced live and experienced at home by known social partners carry social meaning for infants.


infant development; memory; music; open data; open materials; social cognition

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