As a parent, you would give anything just to see your baby smile — especially when they're throwing a temper tantrum. Sadly, though, there isn't a panacea for unhappy children... or is there?
It's a question that U.K. baby food manufacturer Cow & Gate wanted to answer, so they asked child development expert Caspar Addyman, PhD, and music psychologist Lauren Stewart, PhD, to create the ultimate baby-pleasing tune.
The two scientists started by simply reviewing some of their past research: Dr. Addyman had worked on the Baby Laughter Project researching rhymes and sounds that make babies giggle, and Dr. Stewart had worked on a November 2016 study about why songs get stuck in our heads. Combining their findings, they came up with a list of requirements for a baby-friendly hit.
The special "happy song" needed to:
- Be written in a major key
- Follow a simple and repetitive melody
- Include musical devices such as drum rolls and rising pitch to create anticipation
- Follow a fast tempo that echoed babies' faster heart rates
- Be sung by an energetic female vocalist (past research has found babies are drawn to the high-pitched, sing-songy tone known as "motherese")
- Be recorded in the presence of an actual baby
Up next? Turning their research into a real, recorded song. For their "energetic female vocalist," the scientists turned to acclaimed singer-songwriter Imogen Heap.
Using the scientists' guidelines (and, cooler still, the suggestions of her own 18-month-old), Heap constructed four melodies that were "tested" on babies IRL. Once the team found the right melody, Heap crafted lyrics filled with 'beep beep's, 'ping ping's, cars, bikes, and rockets. ("The secret was to make it silly and make it social," Dr. Addyman wrote in an article for The Conversation.) A couple more tests later, "The Happy Song" was born.
Although the tests were small and perhaps "unscientific," Dr. Addyman reassures us that when the researchers played the final tune for a group of 20 babies, they were "met by a sea of entranced little faces." Plus, Dr. Addyman and Dr. Stewart are now planning to work on follow-up studies in the future.
So go ahead, parents: Give the happy little ditty a try!
[h/t The Conversation]