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Infants can distinguish happy from sad melody

Hearing and feeling different beats is an early step in a baby's appreciation and perception of music, suggests a new study, which also shows how babies make sense of the world long before they can talk.

world Updated: Oct 10, 2008 15:37 IST

Hearing and feeling different beats is an early step in a baby's appreciation and perception of music, suggests a new study, which also shows how babies make sense of the world long before they can talk.

The findings of the musical study, which will be published in the forthcoming issue of the journal 'Infant Behavior and Development', suggests that infants as young as 5 months can distinguish an upbeat tune, such as 'Ode to Joy' from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, from a lineup of gloomy tunes.

"One of the first things babies understand communicatively is emotion, so for them the melody is the message," said psychology professor Ross Flom of Utah-based Brigham Young University in the United States.

"Our study showed that by nine months, babies are categorising songs as happy or sad the same way that preschoolers and adults do," stressed study author Flom.

During the study, researchers displayed an emotionally neutral face for the baby while sad music played. When the baby looked away from the face, the music stopped and a new sad song would start. When the happier 'Ode to Joy' played, the baby stared at the face three to four seconds longer, suggesting they were interested in the shift.

According to the study, reported by LiveScience online, 9 months old babies can do the opposite, picking out the sorrowful sound of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony from a pack of happy pieces.

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