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July 2022

Newborn infants prefer the maternal low-pass filtered voice, but not the maternal whispered voice

Author(s): Freeman, M. S.

Journal/Book: Infant Behav Develop. 1996; 19: 355 Chestnut St, Norwood, NJ 07648. Ablex Publ Corp. 199-212.

Abstract: This research examined the hypothesis that prenatally available acoustic properties of the maternal voice support newborns' recognition of the maternal voice. We addressed this question first by assessing infants' preference for maternal voice samples that preserved the lower vocal frequencies which are salient in the uterine environment and second by assessing newborns' preference for maternal whispered voice samples that are produced without voicing and do not contain low frequencies. Infants preferred their mothers' voices over unfamiliar female Voices when presented 500-Hz low-pass filtered voice samples in a nonnutritive sucking operant choice procedure. Infants did not prefer their mothers' whispered voices, suggesting that they did not recognize them. Three additional experiments further clarified this interpretation. These experiments demonstrated that infants hear whispered voices and that they discriminate unfamiliar whispered voices. Additionally, whispered voices were not reinforcing for newborns, suggesting that acoustic properties that contribute to the reinforcing value of female voices are not present in whispering. These results indicate that vocal properties that are available prenatally are sufficient to support newborns' preference for the maternal voice, and they suggest that fundamental frequency is important for neonatal voice recognition.

Note: Article MJ Spence, Univ Texas, Sch Human Dev, Box 830688, Gr 41, Richardson, TX 75083 USA

Keyword(s): newborns; auditory preferences; maternal voice recognition; prenatal experience; nonnutritive sucking; SPEECH SOUNDS; PERCEPTION; RECOGNITION; STIMULATION; PARAMETERS; PATTERNS; SAMPLES; UTERUS; PITCH; SHEEP

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