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Studies on Coochy-Cooing

Studies on Coochy-Cooing

Every week, the Null dissects the most self-evident studies and pointless papers not to hit the headlines. It's harsh, but funny. This week: baby talk.

An in-depth study of human behaviour has shown that people talk to infants in a different tone of voice than they use for other adults. Eureka! As if we didn’t all know that if you present almost any mother with a baby and they’ll promptly coochy-coo and biddly-bee in a voice that contains more treacle than your average sticky toffee pudding.

The research, carried out in the States, recorded mothers talking to their young children as well as to other adults. Then, clutching their precious recordings firmly in their grubby mits, the scientists hot-footed it down to South America to play the conversations to members of non-English speaking Shuar tribe.

Guess what, the tribe participants were able to distinguish baby talk from adult speak. Changes in tone and pitch as well as speed gave the game away as far as the Shuar were concerned.

The Shuar were also able to distinguish to a certain extent between four categories of speech: prohibitive, approving, comforting and attention-demanding; which, the scientists excitedly tell us, shows that the way humans communicate vocally has similarities across cultures. Who would have thought that speaking loudly to attract attention would be a tactic used by non-English speakers?

More silly science:
- What? - Gold from tree stumps
- Scary - Einstein resurrected
- Fun - Spoof or troof?
- Listen - The Null podcast

Or why not try another study of the bleedin' obvious?

Studies of the Bleedin' Obvious is reproduced from the Null's column in the Telegraph.

Image: Adreson Sá

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13 Feb 2011
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