Tone of voice important in interpreting intentions

coloridas-burbujas-de-cuadros-de-dialogo_275-5069New research from British scientists at Cardiff University’s School of Psychology shows that infants can recognise their mother’s voice, rather than the words, in any language; demonstrating that tone is key to voice recognition.

Researchers studied 84 babies aged between 14 and 18 monthcoloridas-burbujas-de-cuadros-de-dialogo_275-5069s and conducted two studies – one in English and the other in Greek. None of the babies had prior exposure to the Greek language.

Research leader Dr Merideth Gattis explained, “in this research we aimed to investigate the contribution of prosodic cues, or tone of voice, to infants’ understanding of mental states. Tone of voice is a really useful signal to what someone is thinking. We used the words ‘whoops’ and ‘there’ accompanied by relative vocal inflections in two languages and got exactly the same results – whether in English or Greek, which none of the children understood.

This study showed us that children can judge the intentions of other people based on tone of voice alone. The acoustic features of speech accompanying actions allow infants to identify intention in perceptually similar actions. They are able to use prosodic cues as a guide to how to act on the world, demonstrated by their tendency to copy intentional actions more than accidental actions.”

Source: Cardiff University News Centre