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Journal ArticleDOI

Rhythm and melody as social signals for infants.

07 Mar 2018-Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences (Wiley)-Vol. 1423, Iss: 1, pp 66-72

TL;DR: Recent studies of the influence of musical engagement on infant social cognition and behavior are discussed, highlighting the importance of rhythmic movement and socially relevant melodies.
Abstract: Infants typically experience music through social interactions with others. One such experience involves caregivers singing to infants while holding and bouncing them rhythmically. These highly social interactions shape infant music perception and may also influence social cognition and behavior. Moving in time with others-interpersonal synchrony-can direct infants' social preferences and prosocial behavior. Infants also show social preferences and selective prosociality toward singers of familiar, socially learned melodies. Here, we discuss recent studies of the influence of musical engagement on infant social cognition and behavior, highlighting the importance of rhythmic movement and socially relevant melodies.
Topics: Social cognition (59%), Social change (58%), Social preferences (55%), Prosocial behavior (55%), Singing (55%)

Summary (2 min read)

Introduction

  • Social interactions are arguably the most important part of an infant's daily life.
  • Human infants are particularly dependent on their caregivers, making social interactions critical for survival.
  • They prefer faces to other visual stimuli 1, 2 voices to other auditory stimuli, 3 and they are sensitive to eye-contact with a social partner.
  • Caregivers talk and sing to infants, often in conjunction with touch, movement, and positive facial expressions.
  • In support of this claim, the authors highlight a selection of recent findings from their laboratories and others.

Music perception in infancy -Rhythm and melody

  • The primary caregiver is usually the infant's first musical mentor.
  • 11 Infants' responses to these musical interactions are shaped by their cumulative exposure to music and by concurrent auditory, motor, and cognitive development.
  • Whereas Western 6-month-olds detect meter changes in music with Western or non-Western metrical structure, 12-month-old infants more readily detect meter changes in the context of Western metrical structure.
  • 24 Movement and the perception of musical timing are intertwined (see for example Refs. 25 -31).
  • After being bounced on every second or third beat of a metrically ambiguous sequence, infants perceive the pattern in groups of two or three, respectively.

Prosocial consequences of interpersonal synchrony

  • Interpersonal synchrony, which is an important social component of musical engagement, is achieved when the movements of one person become temporally aligned with the movements of others.
  • 12-month-olds choose a teddy bear that previously rocked in synchrony with them over one that rocked out-of-synchrony 45 .
  • Infants were significantly more helpful when the target bouncer had exhibited synchronous rather than asynchronous movement, returning more than half of the dropped objects in the former case and less than one third in the latter.
  • 48 If infants observed the experimenter and neutral stranger interacting as "friends," however, they helped the friend of their synchronous movement partner significantly more than the friend of their asynchronous movement partner.
  • Observing synchrony in others may also shape infants' social expectations.

Social importance of rhythmic singing to infants

  • Singing is another potential means of conveying social information to infants.
  • 71 Although ID song captures infant attention by virtue of its acoustic features, song familiarity can confer critical social information.
  • Baseline levels of infant helping were established by having the unfamiliar adult silently reading a book nearby while parents entertained the infant with books and toys.
  • This for singers of familiar songs may be rooted in a preference for those who display shared cultural knowledge.
  • Older children prefer peers who know familiar songs over those who know unfamiliar songs, regardless of liking.

Conclusion

  • The studies reported here are consistent with the view that infants use interpersonal synchrony and song familiarity to selectively direct their social behavior (See Table 1 for a summary).
  • Infants may direct their attention preferentially to suitable social partners by seeking out those who are more likely to be part of their social group.
  • If such interactions signal partner quality, then they may have continuing influences on infant social behavior.
  • It remains to be determined whether synchronous movement or singing a familiar song contributes to the memorability of the initially unfamiliar person who engages in such behavior.
  • Musical interactions between caregivers and infants are likely to enhance the bonds between them, setting the stage for social cognitive consequences of musical engagement in the years ahead.

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Rhythm and melody as social signals for
infants
Laura K. Cirelli, Sandra E. Trehub, Laurel J. Trainor
Version
Post-print/Accepted Manuscript
Citation
(published version)
Cirelli, L.K., Trehub, S.E. and Trainor, L.J. (2018), Rhythm and melody
as social signals for infants. Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci., 1423: 66-72.
doi:10.1111/nyas.13580
Copyright / License
© 2018 New York Academy of Sciences
Publisher’s Statement
This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Cirelli, L.K.,
Trehub, S.E. and Trainor, L.J. (2018), Rhythm and melody as social
signals for infants. Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci., 1423: 66-72., which has been
published in final form at https://doi.org/10.1111/nyas.13580. This
article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with
Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions.

Rhythm and melody as social signals for infants
Laura K. Cirelli
a
, Sandra E. Trehub
a
, Laurel J. Trainor
b,c,d
a
Department of Psychology, University of Toronto Mississauga
b
Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour, McMaster University
c
McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind, McMaster University
d
Rotman Research Institute, Baycrest Hospital
Corresponding author: Laura K. Cirelli, laura.cirelli@utoronto.ca
Short Title: Rhythm and melody as social signals for infants

2
Keywords: infants, social development, singing, synchrony, music
Abstract
Infants typically experience music through social interactions with others. One
such experience involves caregivers singing to infants while holding and bouncing them
rhythmically. These highly social interactions shape infant music perception and may
also influence social cognition and behavior. Moving in time with others, or interpersonal
synchrony, can direct infants’ social preferences and prosocial behavior. Infants also
show social preferences and selective prosociality toward singers of familiar, socially
learned melodies. Here we discuss recent studies of the influence of musical engagement
on infant social cognition and behavior, highlighting the importance of rhythmic
movement and socially relevant melodies.

3
Introduction
Social interactions are arguably the most important part of an infant’s daily life.
Human infants are particularly dependent on their caregivers, making social interactions
critical for survival. Infants may be drawn to social stimuli for this reason. They prefer
faces to other visual stimuli
1, 2
voices to other auditory stimuli,
3
and they are sensitive to
eye-contact with a social partner.
4, 5
Social interactions between infants and caregivers are typically multimodal.
Caregivers talk and sing to infants, often in conjunction with touch, movement, and
positive facial expressions. Around the world, caregivers sing to infants while rocking or
bouncing them to the regular pulse of the music. We argue that these rhythmic and
melodic musical interactions are a source of important social information to infants. In
support of this claim, we highlight a selection of recent findings from our laboratories and
others.
Music perception in infancy Rhythm and melody
The primary caregiver is usually the infants first musical mentor.
6
Caregivers sing
regularly to infants
7, 8
from a small set of songs, each of which is sung repeatedly and
relatively consistently in terms of pitch level and tempo.
9
These ritualized performances
become an important part of caregiver-infant interactions. According to parental report,
routine singing to infants increases parents’ well-being, self-esteem, and reciprocal
parent-infant bonding,
10
while also soothing infants and reducing their distress.
11
Infants
responses to these musical interactions are shaped by their cumulative exposure to music
and by concurrent auditory, motor, and cognitive development.

4
Rhythm perception skills allow listeners to track musical sequences in terms of
their rhythm (i.e., pattern of sound onsets and offsets), beat (i.e., underlying pulse), and
meter (i.e., hierarchical organization of strong and weak beats). The perception of beat
and meter is driven in part by bottom-up processes, shaped by top-down processes, and
altered by experience (for a review, see Ref. 12). Growing evidence suggests very early
sensitivity to the temporal organization of musical sequences. Electroencephalography
(EEG) with sleeping newborns reveals sensitivity to the onsets, offsets, and tempo of tone
sequences.
13
Infant brains also respond to the omission of metrically important tones in a
rhythm pattern, implying sensitivity to the beat.
14
Awake, alert infants at 7 and 15 months
of age show neural entrainment to the beat and meter of rhythmic patterns.
15
These
findings indicate that the very immature auditory system can extract and organize
temporal stimuli.
Behavioral studies reveal that young infants can discriminate changes in tempo
16
and rhythm.
17, 18
Moreover, they recognize specific rhythm patterns across different
tempos.
19
Infants also categorize melodies on the basis of meter, distinguishing patterns
in duple meter (two-beat divisions) from those in triple meter (three-beat divisions).
20
Incidental exposure to music increases infants’ sensitivity to the metrical structures
of that culture. Whereas Western 6-month-olds detect meter changes in music with
Western or non-Western metrical structure, 12-month-old infants more readily detect
meter changes in the context of Western metrical structure.
21, 22
Enriched musical
exposure (e.g., parent-infant classes) may accelerate the process of enculturation,
23
but
perception remains flexible in the early years. After limited exposure to music with non-
Western metrical structure, 12-month-olds succeed in detecting the foreign meter

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