‘Which is more musical, a truck passing by a factory or a truck passing by a music school?’ –John Cage


Whines, cries, and motherese have important features in common: they are all well-suited for getting the attention of listeners, and they share salient acoustic characteristics – those of increased pitch, varied pitch contours, and slowed production, though the production speed of cries varies. Motherese is the child-directed speech parents use towards infants and young children to sooth, attract attention, encourage particular behaviors, and prohibit the child from dangerous acts. Infant cries are the sole means of communication for infants for the first few months, and a primary means in the later months. Cries signal that the infant needs care, be it feeding, changing, protection, or physical contact. Whines enter into a child’s vocal repertoire with the onset of language, typically peaking between 2.5 and 4 years of age. This sound is perceived as more annoying even than infant cries.

These three attachment vocalizations – whines, cries, and motherese – each have a particular effect on the listener; to bring the attachment partner nearer. (…)

Participants, regardless of gender or parental status, were more distracted by whines than machine noise or motherese as measured by proportion scores. In absolute numbers, participants were most distracted by whines, followed by infant cries and motherese.

{ Whines, cries, and motherese: Their relative power to distract | Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology | Continue reading }

photo { Tod Seelie }