Behavioral and heart rate responses of four-, five-, and six-week-old infants to varying auditory stimuli


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Behavioral and heart rate responses of four-, five-, and six-week-old infants to varying auditory stimuli
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viii, 81 leaves : ill. ; 28 cm.
Caranasos, Constance, 1934-
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Auditory perception   ( lcsh )
Heart beat   ( lcsh )
Infants   ( lcsh )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


Thesis--University of Florida.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 71-78).
Statement of Responsibility:
by Constance Caranasos.
General Note:
General Note:

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University of Florida
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Full Text







Copyright 1976


Constance Caranasos


To My Husband

George John Caranasos
for his encouragement,
assistance and patience


To My Daughter

Ellen Constance Caranasos
that she may always
place a high value on education


It is with respect that I express my deepest appreciation

to Dr. Kenneth R. Bzoch, Professor and Chairman, Department

of Communication Disorders, College of Health Related Pro-

fessions for his guidance, direction,and inspiration as

Chairman of the Supervisory Committee. His high standards

as a teacher, clinician, and researcher have set an example

that will remain with me always.

My respect and gratitude go to the other members of the

supervisory and dissertation committee; Dr. Norman N. Markel,

Professor Speech, College of Arts and Sciences for his

enthusiastic teaching, kind encouragement, and direct guidance

that led to the completion of this study and to Dr. G. Paul

Moore, Professor, Department of Speech, College of Arts and

Sciences for his help, patient guidance, and confidence in

the completion of this work.

I am grateful to the infants and their parents who

participated in this study.

Mr. James Parker, Chief Engineer, Children's Mental

Health Unit, Department of Psychiatry, now on leave of absence,

deserves special thanks for making himself available to

teach, guide and assist me with the technical management of

this study, and for his help in preparing the sound stimulus

tapes and arranging the videotape apparatus used in this study.

I wish to thank Dr. Richard Conti, Professor of Medicine,

Head of the Division of Cardiology, College of Medicine for

permitting my access to and use of electrocardiographic

equipment. My gratitude and appreciation is expressed to

Mrs. Gail Benson, formerly Nurse Supervisor in charge of

the ECG unit of the Shands Teaching Hospital, for her

advice, participation in the experimental procedure, and

for reading the heart rate tracings of all the infants.

My thanks to Mrs. Jackie Chesney, Nurse, College of

Nursing and Lamaze Instructor who provided me with the names

of the subjects who participated in the study.

My sincere thanks to Mrs. Margaret T. Nattress, Asso-

ciate Professor of Speech and again to Dr. Kenneth R. Bzoch,

for spending many hours in rating the infant behavioral

changes from the videotapes.

Dr. Ronald Marks, Assistant Professor, Biostatistics,

College of Dentistry and Dr. Dennis Dixon, Assistant Pro-

fessor, Biostatistics, College of Dentistry deserve special

thanks for their assistance in the preparation of the

statistical analysis of this study.

My warmest thanks and appreciation to Mrs. Dorothy

Gramigna who cared for my daughter so that I could complete

this study.


















Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Council
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of
the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



Constance Caranasos

March, 1976

Chairman: Kenneth R. Bzoch
Major Department: Speech

Twenty-three infants, 13 male and 10 female, ranging

in ages between 4 and 6 weeks of age were exposed to three

sets of four auditory stimuli. The sets were human voice,

human speech, and non-human sound. The 12 stimuli were

presented once in a random fashion while the infant was

held by its mother, and once when not held. Behavioral

responses were recorded on video tape, and an electrocardio-

graphic record was analyzed for changes in heart rate in

responses to the auditory stimuli.

There was high interobserver agreement in scoring

behavioral responses from the videotape. There were no

statistically significant differences in behavioral responses

in the held and not held positions. Human sound stimuli

produced significantly more behavioral responses than did

non-human sound stimuli. Neither male nor female infants

showed a preference for voices of the same or opposite sex.

A significantly greater number of behavioral responses was


elicited by the auditory stimuli of an angry female than by

either the non-human warble tone of 1,000 Hz from the baby

beeper or by the light music.

A wide variation in heart rate occurred during all

auditory stimuli and no statistically significant difference

in heart rate change was determined. The preferential

responses in 4-, 5-, and 6-week-old infants were found by

observational data to be statistically significant for human

over non-human auditory stimuli. This finding tends to lend

some support to the hypothesis that human infants appear

to be predisposed to language acquisition.




Infants respond to their environment. Auditory stimuli,

particularly, are received and produce early responses. The

1-day-old infant, for example, will move his eyes towards the

direction of a sound (Wertheimer, 1961). More complex re-

sponses to more specific auditory stimuli occur as the infant

matures (Eisenberg, Griffin, Coursin, and Hunter, 1964).

Listening behavior serves as a foundation for acquiring lan-

guage. Friedlander (1969) stressed the importance of the

receptive functions for the development of language in chil-

dren. A better understanding of the mechanisms by which

these responses are produced may provide insight into how

language is acquired (Eisenberg, 1967; Eimas, Siqueland,

Jusczyk, and Vigorito, 1971; and Kagan, 1972).

Much recent research has centered on the perception of

speech by infants (Moffitt, 1971; Morse, 1972; and Morse,

1974) and is an outgrowth of the theoretical concept that

language is biologically predetermined for human beings

(Lennenberg, 1967). Infants show early ability to discri-

minate between human and non-human sounds. Among the early

sounds that infants hear are the voices and the speech

patterns of the people around them. The mother's voice is

important for cognitive and affective development in infants

(Turnure, 1971). Efforts have been made to determine when

infants show discriminative or differential awareness of

human voice and speech sounds from non-human sounds. Adults

and children discriminate among various voice types (Costanzo,

Markel, Costanzo, 1969; Phillis, 1970). League and Bzoch

(1968, 1970) reported affective responses among infants from

shortly after birth to 15 months of age to voices with

varying intonation patterns, but no differential response

was noted based on the sex of the infants. Aronson and

Rosenbloom (1971) found that 30-day-old infants became dis-

tressed when they saw their mothers speaking to them while

the sound of the voice was transmitted from another direc-

tion. The infants' ability to perceive this auditory-visual

discrepancy gave strong support to the theory of early per-

ceptive capacities.

A clear understanding of the emotional or affective

responses produced by auditory stimuli dates from 1872,

with the publication of Darwin's "The Expression of the

Emotions in Man and Animals." Darwin stressed that there

exists a natural biological continuum of expressive responses

extending from animals, through human infants, to adult man.

He appreciated the difficulty of the study when he noted

that "although most of our expressive actions are innate or

instinctive it is a different question whether we have

any instinctive power of recognizing them" (Darwin, p. 356).

He pointed out that animals learn to recognize ". the

tones of voice of their masters. Children, no doubt,

would soon learn the movements of expression in their elders

in the same manner as animals learn those of man. But

the question is, do our children acquire their knowledge of

expression solely by experience through the power of asso-

ciation and reason?" (Darwin, p. 357).

Darwin further clearly indicates that infants respond

differently to different stimuli: "The movements of ex-

pression in the face and body, whatever their origin may

have been, are in themselves of much importance for our wel-

fare. They serve as the first means of communication be-

tween the mother and her infant; she smiles approval, and

thus encourages her child on the right path, or frowns

disapproval. The movements of expression give vividness

and energy to our spoken words" (Darwin, p. 364). He con-

cludes that ". expression in itself, or the language of

the emotions, as it has sometimes been called, is certainly

of importance for the welfare of mankind" (p. 366). These

thoughts and their amplifications form the starting points

of such disciplines as psychology, psychophysiology, and

psycholinguistics (Hunt, 1961; Markel, 1969).

Darwin stressed the mother's influence on the infant's

response, but just as important is the infant's influence on

the mother's response: an infant's smile encourages the

mother and a frown causes her to adjust her response. The

infant's response is an essential part of the communication

process. While mothers have long reported with pride obser-

vations of their infant's "expressions" and their inter-

pretations of these, these "expressions" or responses of

infants were regarded as too primitive to be of any signi-

ficance. Although infants have a limited and restricted

repertoire of responses and expressions (Wolff, 1965;

Butterfield and Siperstein, 1972), the infant nonetheless

does respond to ever-present surrounding stimuli (Gray and

Crowell, 1968). More importantly, newborns produce observ-

able responses to auditory stimuli during proper states of

attention (Richmond, Grossman and Lustman, 1953; Eisenberg,


An infant's startle, smile, or frown is no longer viewed

as merely the result of "a gas bubble on the tummy," but is

regarded as a possible emotional reaction to any number of

stimuli. An accurate translation of these responses to the

emotional state of the infant, however, is not possible

(Crystal, 1973).

In 1921 and 1922 Piaget (1955) studied perception,

language, and thought processes in children. By use of an

organized and systematic biological approach to the study

of the child's intellect, he established a theoretical frame-

work that continues to affect current educational methods.

Piaget provided a careful longitudinal, observational method

for evaluating language development in children. The basis

of Piaget's theory was that infants from birth pass through

stages of essential symbolic processing that shapes intellec-

tual growth (Phillips, 1969).

Lennenberg, in 1967, proposed that "behavior is seen

to be an integral part of the organic whole; it is related

to structure and function, one being the expression of the

other" (p. 3). The biological predisposition of species

forms the framework of Lennenberg's theories of why only

man learns to speak a language in man's uniquely character-

istic way. The challenge of Lennenberg's theories led this

writer to investigate the very early behavioral and physio-

logical responses of infants to sounds of the human voice

and to speech.

The study of emergent language behavior in normal in-

fants can help provide an understanding of the development

and structure of language (Bzoch and League, 1971). Regard-

less of the study method employed, however, results are

difficult to interpret because one is dealing with the non-

verbal behavior of infants.

Current interest in the acquisition and transfer of

knowledge through language has focused attention on the

infant as an appropriate subject for the study of emergent

language. Since our society places a stigma on inadequate

communication, methods of preventing communication problems

have been examined. In recent years, support has become

available for greater study of infants in order to better

understand human language development and in this way pro-

vide measures to help prevent communication disorders.

Recent investigations have stressed (1) the study of emergent

language in order to test the theory that human beings are

biologically predisposed to language acquisition, (2) the

development of methods to better understand how infants think

and learn, (3) the assessment of the range of normal language

performance, and (4) the production of methods for prevention

and remediation of communication problems.

The purpose of the present study is to determine the

early responses of infants to the human voice and to non-

human sounds, with the aim of determining whether different

types of auditory stimuli produce responses that differ in

nature and degree as a result of the type of stimulus.



The newborn infant is exposed to numerous sound patterns

immediately after birth. In the delivery room there is the

noise of human activities and human speech, and the sounds

of the infant's own crying. The voice and speech patterns

of other human beings are an almost constant stimulus and

an early tutor in language acquisition. It is not known

how soon after birth the infant responds meaningfully or

preferentially to these noises and to human speech patterns.

Many studies support the hypothesis that the normal

human infant is behaviorally responsive to auditory stimuli,

including human sound patterns, and demonstrates selective

attentive interest in sound sources (Morse, 1974). Kussmaul,

a nineteenth-century German physician, propounded the theory

that the newborn is insensitive to auditory stimuli (Richmond,

Grossman, and Lustman, 1953), but Forbes and Forbes (1927),

and later Ray (1932), showed that even the fetus in utero

moves in response to sound stimulation. Sontag and Wallace

(1935) noted fetal movement to sound as early as the thirty-

first week of gestation. Elliot and Elliot (1964) found

that the middle and inner ear are fully developed by the

fifth month of fetal growth. Thus, the infant, at birth,

is clearly physiologically well prepared to respond differ-

entially to auditory stimuli (Eisenberg, 1970).

Parents have often reported with joy their infant's

early apparent preferential attention to their voices in a

group of speakers. A mother's report that her baby knows

her voice has been viewed as eager pride or bias interfering

with her objective observations. More objective approaches,

however, have been made in an attempt to evaluate these early

observable responses of infants to sounds and human speech.

Three different scientific procedures have been most fre-

quently applied, namely: (1) non-nutritive sucking (Eimas,

Siqueland, Jusczyk, and Vigorito, 1971); (2) the use of

physiologic measurements, such as measured changes in heart

rate (Graham, Clifton, and Hatton, 1968); and (3) the re-

cording of infant behavior by videotape or film to produce

a permanent record that can be replayed to groups of observers

as needed (League and Bzoch, 1970).

A vast recent investigational literature has developed

related to speech perception, language development, expressive

language, and psycholinguistics. The literature review for

this presentation will emphasize the early historical litera-

ture and summarize the recent pertinent research.

Psychological Aspects

The introduction of psychological principles in the

study of language dates from the turn of the twentieth cen-

tury when Wilhelm Wundt established the first laboratory of

experimental psychology. From 1900 to 1909 he wrote exten-

sively on the psychology of language (Eisenson, 1938).

Psychologists moved away from the philosophy of language

into the laboratory, while linguists continued to study

language and its origins, generally without a psychological

implication or interpretation. The awareness of Darwin's

theory that language can best be understood when viewed

along with human personality influenced the development of

psycholinguistics. Verbal learning, human behavior, and

emotions became an integral concern to psycholinguists

(Markel, 1969).

Developmental psychology flourished from the 1920s to

the 1950s. During this time developmental norms for infants

and children were established by L. B. Ames, N. Bagley,

C. Bubler, E. A. Doll, A. Gesell, E. R. Goodenough, O. C.

Irwin, M. M. Shirley, and J. Piaget (Harlock, 1953). These

normative data helped in the diagnosis of infant and child-

hood developmental disorders (Gesell and Amatruda, 1947).

Normative data on phonological and morphological acquisition

of speech became available during the 1930s and 1950s

(Mussen, 1960). However, the stress of these studies was

on expressive language phenomena, with little attention given

to receptive language skills or to the field of non-verbal

communication (Markel, 1969; Friedlander, 1970). As recently

as 1971, Bzoch and League published a scale of emergent

infant language to assess both receptive and expressive

language skills in infancy. The scale provided a means for

data collection on children from birth to 3 years of age and

was designed to screen for potential communication disorders

(Bzoch and League, 1971).

Non-nutritive Sucking

As developmental data on language accumulated, studies

utilizing measures of physiological responses to sound in

infants were introduced to produce new information. As early

as 1920 and 1930, studies using conditioned reflexes were

undertaken in neonates. Wenger (1936) used the polygraph

and photographs to record responses of infants placed in a

cabinet. He used buzzer-shock-light stimuli in traditional

classical conditioning experiments. Kantrow (1937) found

that sucking in infants was a predictable, well-organized,

and precise response that could be recorded. A nursing bot-

tle was used, and the sucking response was recorded on a

kymograph by means of a pen attached to a linen harness

placed under the baby's chin. A buzzer was used to establish

a conditioned reflex that would lead to sucking. By the

1950s operant conditioning had replaced classical condition-

ing as the preferred experimental method (Mussen, 1960).

In the Soviet Union in the 1950s, infant studies using

classical conditioning techniques indicated that sucking

often stopped in response to an auditory stimulus (Keen,

1964). In a study of 48 infants from 3 to 5 days of age, a

pacifier was connected to a Davis cumulative recorder to

obtain a record of non-nutritive sucking patterns induced by

a tone of 90 Hz (Keen, 1964). Auditory stimuli produced

changes in sucking behavior, indicating that non-nutritive

sucking could be used as an indicator of an infant's response

to auditory signals. In another study (Sameroff, 1967), the

non-nutritive sucking patterns of ten 5-day-old infants were

studied in response to sound and light stimuli. Introduction

of a stimulus during sucking either lengthened or shortened

the expected period of sucking, while introduction of a

stimulus between sucking bursts prolonged the period during

which sucking was absent. These results indicated the

necessity of considering the pattern of an infant's sucking

response in the analysis of the effect of stimuli on sucking.

Eimas et al. (1971), using the non-nutritive sucking

response paradigm, showed that 1- and 4-month-old infants

can discriminate between synthetic speech sounds of the voiced

/b/ and the voiceless /p/ consonants. The authors concluded

that these perceptions are categorized in the manner of

adult perceptions. Eilers and Minifie (1975), conducting

experiments using the suckle response paradigm, found that

the infants could detect differences between consonants /s/

and /v/, /s/ and /// but not between /s/ and /z/, leading

them to conclude that at times an infant may choose to

ignore certain stimuli.

Voice Discrimination

Investigators of reception of auditory stimuli in infants

have been interested not only in language acquisition in the

neonate but also in the detection of hearing disorders in

infants (Froeschels and Beebe, 1946; Wedenberg, 1956; Fr6ding,

1960; Eisenberg, Griffin, Coursin and Hunter, 1964; Schulman,

1974; Thompson and Weber, 1974; Eisele and Berry, 1975).

Tones of varying frequency, intensity, and duration, as well

as synthetic consonant-vowel sounds, have been used as

auditory stimuli for many infant-perception investigations.

In the past decade, however, attention has been given

to the quality of voice and the intonation of the speaker as

an important aspect of the auditory stimulus heard by the

infant. Adults and children make selective discrimination

among voice types and evidence affective responses to

different voice qualities. A technique for rating perceptual

differences in voice samplings was developed by Markel (1969,

1973). Costanzo, Markel, and Costanzo (1969) found that

the type of voice heard alters the affective response pro-

duced in the listener. Voice quality is considered an

important messenger of personality (Markel, 1969). Phillis

(1970) found that children in the fourth to twelfth grades

discriminated among voice qualities.

Using adult subjects, Gaviria (1967) measured electro-

dermal, plethysmographic, and heart rate changes caused by

responses to four auditory stimuli: noise, the subject's

own voice, the voice of the subject's spouse, and an unknown

person's voice. Habituation to noise was slowest, next,

to one's own voice, then to the spouse's voice, and fastest

to unfamiliar voices.

Turnure (1971) studied babies of 3, 6, and 9 months of

age who heard their mother's normal voice, her voice slightly

distorted, and her voice grossly distorted. An observer

recorded the baby's frowns, smiles, crying, vocalizing,

mouthing, and limb-mouth contact. It was found that the

older infants diminished their ongoing motor activity when

listening to their mother's voice as opposed to that of an

unfamiliar woman.

Friedlander (1968, 1969 and 1970) used operant condi-

tioning to study the responses of infants to voice and

message patterns. He transported the laboratory to the

infant's home by using an automated home measurement pro-

gram. Babies from 11 to 15 months of age were presented

with music, vocabulary, and message patterns from "an auto-

mated two-channel audiovisual feedback toy." The baby

learned to operate the knobs of the "toy" and selectively

attend to the sound stimulation of his preference.

Friedlander's studies, which revealed developmental differ-

ences in an infant's preference to familiar over non-familiar

or distorted voice stimuli, stressed the importance of

listening on the part of the infant to voices and speech

patterns in the environment in the total process of language


Heart Rate

Heart rate response has been used for several decades

as a means of measuring physiologic responses to varying

stimuli. Changes in heart rate in adults, and more recently

in infants, have been examined during their responses to

visual, auditory, and tactile stimulation (Lipton,

Steinschneider,and Richmond, 1965). A number of investi-

gators, by use of electrocardiography, have attempted to

study perceptual and cognitive abilities in young infants.

Moffitt (1971) indicates that studies utilizing heart rate

responses have been mainly concentrated in three areas:

forms of cardiac response as a function of age, as a function

of stimulation conditions, and the effects of repeated stimu-

lation on response decrement or habituation. Ziegler (1951)

reviewed the literature on electrocardiography in infants

and children and concluded that there is a considerable

variation in normal heart rate in infancy. The heart rate

may exceed 200 beats per minute or be below 50 beats per

minute in a given normal infant. He explained that heart

rate alone does not indicate an abnormal cardiac mechanism.

A complete diagnostic electrocardiogram is essential for this

type of determination. Cassels and Ziegler (1966) confirmed

these findings and pointed out that the heart rate normally

is not consistently below 100 beats per minute until the

child has nearly reached school age. *

Heart rate response measured by current electrocardio-

graphic computer instrumentation has decreased the time

required to read an electrocardiogram. Graham, Clifton,

and Hatton (1968) studied the heart rate response of new-

borns to a "moderately intense sound," and reported an

acceleration of heart rate to the stimulus, with the heart

rate later returning to pre-stimulus levels. Habituation

of response, which occurs in adults, was not readily ob-

servable in these newborns. An interval of 90 seconds

between stimuli again was considered too long because of loss

of attention by the newborns. It was suggested that the

nature of the auditory stimulus used may not produce suffi--

cient interest on the part of the infant.

Lipton et al. (1965a, b), after careful observation of

newborns, reported that physiological events have varying

effects on heart rate. Activities such as crying, sucking,

and movement accelerate the cardiac rate. Hiccuping may

reduce the rate for one or two cardiac cycles. Furthermore,

infants between 2 and 5 months of age manifested a degree

of sinus arrhythmia that was the equal to, or greater than,

that in newborn infants, even though the heart rate was more

rapid by 2 months of age. Cardiac deceleration was observed

in young infants when objects were presented to their visual

field. Steinschneider, Lipton, and Richmond (1966) showed

that neonates can respond differentially to graded sound

intensities of white noise with changes in heart rate. With

increase in sound intensity, infants exhibited increased

motor activity and an increased heart rate. Infants respond

to a sound source by eye motion, head turning, and turning

of the body toward the sound source (Steinschneider et al.

1966). Lipton et al. (1965, p. 152) cautioned that

.although the results in human infants are
strongly suggestive of fundamental maturational
changes, they must be viewed with reservation.
It is possible that although an objectively
standard stimulus is employed, the resulting
afferent discharge varies with age. Consequently,
the response being examined may reflect sensory
changes with age rather than autonomic-nervous
system development.

Clifton and Meyers (1969) studied the heart rate

response to auditory stimuli in newborns and 4-month-old

infants. Newborns responded with cardiac acceleration while

the older infants showed deceleration to a 10-second tone

stimulus. The authors suggested that deceleration of the

heart rate in the 4-month-old was related to the phenomenon

"the orienting reflex," described by Sokolov in 1960 and


It has been theorized that two cardiac arousal systems

exist: the defense reflex (DR) and the orienting reflex (OR).

The orienting reflex (heart rate deceleration) has been

demonstrated in adults. It is thought that the OR has an

important influence on the psychological process of percep-

tion and learning (Uno and Grings, 1965; Germana, J., 1968;

Jeffrey, W. E., 1968; Germana and Klein, 1968). There has

therefore been considerable interest in determining whether

the OR is present in infants (Graham and Clifton, 1966;

Graham, Clifton, and Hatton, 1968; Berg, W. K., 1974).

Currently, the above cited investigators question the

existence of the cardiac orienting reflex in infants below

the age of 4 months. Graham and Jackson (in press) empha-

sized that complex or patterned stimuli rarely have been

used in newborn heart rate studies. It has been recommended

that more interesting patterns of stimuli be used in future

research and that the behavioral state of the infant be

given more consideration.

Bridger (1961) used changes in heart rate as a means of

determining habituation and sensory discriminatory responses

in infants 1 to 5 days of age. These infants were able to

habituate and show sensory discrimination among pure tones

of varying loudness. The babies differed from one another

in their sensory thresholds. The heart rate increased when

the infants were startled but remained the same when no

behavioral change was detected.

Segall (1972) postulated that hospitalized premature

infants live in a monotonous environment and do not receive

the same stimulation as infants at home. An experimental

group of 30 infants were presented with a tape recording of

their mother's voice played for 30 minutes each day. A

control group of 30 infants was not exposed to such a stimulus.

The heart rate of the experimental group, as opposed to that

of the control group, increased not only in response to the

mother's voice, but also to white noise, word stimulus, and

an unfamiliar voice. The control group showed a less marked

response to all these stimuli. It was concluded that audi-

tory stimulation is beneficial to infants.

When simple auditory stimuli (pure tones of the same

loudness) were presented to adult males, acceleration of

the heart rate occurred with the onset of the stimulus but

was then followed by a period of marked deceleration (Lang

and Hnatiow, 1962; Geer, 1964). Bartoshuk (1962), using

a clicking sound as a stimulus, found that infants from 1 to

4 days old responded with an increase in heart rate. With

repeated stimulation a decrease in the magnitude of response

occurred. It is not possible to determine whether accelera-

tion of the heart rate in response to sound is a specific

response to auditory stimuli or simply a general response to

any new stimulus. Furthermore, the length of a heart rate

response cycle to a given stimulus in early infancy is


The'status of the infant at the time of electrocardio-

graphic recording is important. Lewis, Dodd, and Harwitz

(1969) found statistically significant differences in heart

rate response to tactile stimulation when infants were awake,

asleep, alert, fussy, drowsy, or crying. Moffitt (1971),

by the use of heart rate measurements, showed that 5-month-

old infants can make discriminative responses to the syn-

thetic speech syllables "bah" and "gah." He considered

these findings in agreement with those of Eimas et al. (1971),

who studied 1-month-old and 4-month-old infants by use of

the non-nutritive sucking response to measure discrimination

between "pah" and "bah" synthetic speech samples. These

studies support the theory that language has innate proper-

ties, and imply that infants have the capacity for phono-

logical discrimination since they can recognize some sound

units but cannot coordinate the performance and production

of these sounds.

Although measurements of heart rate response may not

be as valid as standard audiometric procedures for measuring

hearing acuity, such measures have been used not only for

research but also as tests of hearing (Schulman, 1974) in

order to gather information on non-verbal subjects. Richmond

et al. (1953), Zeaman and Wegner (1956), and Schulman (1974)

showed that changes in the heart rate could be used as a

means of testing hearing.

Behavioral Observations

The coupling of behavioral observations and electro-

cardiographic measurements can provide additional information

verifying whether an infant responds to a given auditory

signal. Behavioral observations have been used to provide

evidence for clinical judgments of the responsiveness of

others to a sound pattern. Investigators stress the impor-

tance of observing infant responses to auditory stimuli.

Lamper and Eisdorfer (1971) studied 40 newborns at 8 to 72

hours of age on three consecutive days to determine neonate

response to various stimuli. Four stimuli were used:

(1) 3,000 Hz at 90 dB; (2) 3,000 Hz at 70 db; (3) cold; and

(4) touch. Intense stimuli evoked observable responses


Behavioral inhibition as a response to auditory stimuli

in the neonate was reported by Birns, Blank, Bridger, and

Escalona (1965). They recognized the importance of soothing

auditory stimuli, such as music, humming of a motor, or the

human voice, on the behavior of an infant. A mother will

often report that she can quiet her infant with music or the

"tone of her voice." Birns et al. (1965) did not select

these stimuli for their study because of the complexity and

nature of the sounds; instead they used a series of tones.

Four observers judged the infant's behavior on a rating

scale designed to describe the infant's state. A 75 percent

agreement was found on an average, showing that auditory

stimulation can produce a soothing effect on human neonates.

A low tone of 150 cps had the most soothing effect, a higher

tone of 500 cps was of intermediate effectiveness, and an

intermittent low tone of 150 cps was least effective. Changes

in the total activity levels of the infant were observed

with cessation of crying.

In recent years, investigators dealing with infant

response patterns have found the videotape recorder to be

invaluable. Responses can be recorded, repeated, and observed

at a later time. League and Bzoch (1968, 1970) videotape

recorded mother-infant sequences of 16 infants ranging in

age from shortly after birth to 15 months of age. Initial

fixation of attention by infants was measured by their arrest

of body movements in response to adult voices and an infant's

voice. A stopwatch was used to record the length of time

of arrested activity in seconds. A pattern of difference in

response time for the various voice qualities was noted. The

response time differed for angry voices as compared to

friendly voices and according to the sex of the speaker.

Responses were no different between male and female infants.

The developmental attention of'infants upon five differing

voice conditions increased in fixation as the infant grew.

The importance of a mother's speech in eliciting a

response in a single 4-month-old baby during a game of

peekaboo was shown by Greenfield (1972). Kagan (1972)

concluded that infants older than 8 or 9 months can think.

His conclusions were based on videotaped experiments which

measured attention to visual and auditory stimuli in which

infants showed an ability to resolve discrepancies between

stimuli and solve problems.

Condon and Sanders (1974) observed that 1- to 2-day-old

neonates can perform "precise and sustained movements that

are synchronous with the articulated structure of adult

speech." Their findings offer a new approach to the study

of language acquisition and imply that infants rehearse the

linguistic patterns of their culture through rhythmic body

movements long before they speak.

The work currently undertaken at the Infant Development

Laboratory in the Harry A. Waisman Center on Mental Retar-

dation and Human Development at the University of Wisconsin

in Madison, Wisconsin, under the direction of Lewis A.

Leavitt, and Philip A. Morse, appears in their first Research

Status Report, August, 1975. This report includes their

studies of auditory/speech perception in infants and their

research methodology. They have been and are now presently

involved in the cardiac activity patterns associated with

exploration of the young infant's orienting response to

speech discrimination.




A review of the current literature brought out the

following major concepts which led to the development of

the methods of procedure followed in this study.

Human voice, speech, and language patterns are of

critical importance for the satisfactory acquisition of

language in human infants (Markel, 1969; League and Bzoch,

1970; Schiefelbush and Lloyd, 1974). Lennenberg (1967)

theorized that the development of language is biologically

predetermined. Examination of infant behavior has shown

that infants have an innate ability to respond adaptively

to their environment (Friedlander, 1970; Eimas et al., 1971)

and that newborns do respond to auditory stimuli (Eisenberg,


It is, of course, difficult to determine the actual

effect of voice, of speech, and of non-human sounds on the

development of linguistic capabilities of very young infants

(Moffitt, 1971). Since infants are unreliable informants

and since the auditory stimuli used in studies to date have

been widely varient, accepted methods for measuring infant

responses, therefore, have often relied on physiological

response measurements combined with behavioral assessment

(Koch, 1968a, b).

Several recent studies have utilized the ECG to investi-

gate infant responses to auditory stimuli. Changes in heart

rate following auditory stimuli have been considered a

reliable physiological record of infant responses to sound

(Lipton et al., 1965; Graham et al., 1968). The nature of

alterations in heart rate produced by auditory stimuli has

been studied by Bartoshuk (1962). The duration of the heart

rate response to auditory stimuli in infancy appears to be

widely variable between subjects (Zeigler, 1951). Further,

the physiologic state of the infant (i.e., crying, sleeping,

alert) at the time of testing appears to be an important

experimental variable (Lewis, Kagan, Campbell, and Kalafut,

1966; Lewis and Spaulding, 1967; Lewis, Dodd, and Harwitz,

1969; Berg, Berg, and Graham, 1971).

A variety of auditory stimuli at different intensity

levels have been previously used in heart rate experiments

for adults and infants: for example, white noise (Stein-

schneider et al., 1966), tones of 1,000 Hz at varying

intensities of 50, 70, and 90 dB (Germana and Klein, 1968),

synthetic consonant speech sounds (Eimas et al., 1971;

Moffitt, 1969), mothers and female voices (Turnure, 1971;

Friedlander, 1970), and tape-recorded inflected speech

samples (League and Bzoch, 1968, 1970).

Because of the wide variability in changes of heart

rate and in other physiological measures of responses to

auditory stimuli, behavioral observational studies continue

to present an important alternate means of evaluating infant

responses to auditory stimuli. For example, Bridger (1961)

found that changes in heart rate were correlated with activity

levels. Observer judgments of infant behavioral responses to

sound have been used to provide information about affective

discriminative capabilities in infants and young children

(Bergman and Escalona, 1959; Birns et al., 1965; Lamper and

Eisdorfer, 1971). Infants differ, however, in temperament,

activity levels, and sensitivity thresholds. Therefore, just

as changes in heart rate may be affected by inner-organ

functions, so may observable behavior responses. It is not

clear from the existing literature whether physiological or

behavioral response measures are more appropriate or valid

for investigations of infants under 2 months of age.

Even the quality of voice and intonation patterns of

the speaker may present another important parameter in studies

dealing with auditory responses of infants. These paralin-

guistic factors are viewed as very important early message

carriers of meaning and are thought to have a critical

bearing on language acquisition (Markel, 1969; League and

Bzoch, 1970; Banikiotes, Banikiotes, and Montgomery, 1972;

Markel, Bein, and Phillis, 1973).


The general purpose of the study was to determine whether

very young infants already respond differently to speech than

to non-speech sounds as measured by changes in heart rate

and/or behavior. Included in this general purpose were

the following additional questions: (1) Do infants held

on their mother's lap respond differently from those not

held? (2) Do male infants respond differently from female

infants? (3) Do the responses of infants to male voices

differ from their responses to female voices? (4) Finally,

do infants generally show differing responses to each of

the 12 auditory stimuli?


The major hypothesis of this study was that infants

of 4, 5, and 6 weeks of age will already respond differently

to human than to non-human auditory stimuli as evidenced by

changes in heart rate and behavior. The null hypothesis,

therefore, is stated as follows: Infants of 4, 5, and 6

weeks of age will not display responses to human auditory

stimuli that are different from those displayed to non-human

auditory stimuli, as evidenced by either heart rate change

or behavior.


Twenty-three normal Caucasian infants were the subjects

of this study. Table 1 shows the age of all subjects in-

cluded in the investigation. Examination of Table 1 shows

that the mean age of the total sample was 33.0 days (or 5

weeks). It can be further seen that the mean age for the


Sex and Age of Subjects

Males Age (days) Females Age (days)

1. 27 1. 29
2. 29 2. 30
3. 29 3. 32
4. 29 4. 33
5. 30 5. 33
6. 31 6. 35
7. 31 7. 36
8. 31 8. 36
9. 32 9. 36
10. 33 10. 37
11. 35
12. 36
13. 38

Mean Age 31.6 Mean Age 33.7

Note: The mean age for male and females is 32.5.

13 male subjects was 31.6, closely approximating the mean

age of the 10 female subjects, 33.7 days (also the fifth

week). The ages ranged from 27 days to 38 days, and the

majority of the infants (i.e., 16) were 5 weeks old. The

age in days was based on the following distribution:

1 week (0-7); 2 weeks (8-14); 3 weeks (15-21); 4 weeks

(22-28); 5 weeks (29-35); 6 weeks (36-42).

Subjects for the study were obtained in the following

manner. The names of parents of potential infant subjects

were first obtained from a nurse instructor of a local

Lamaze Childbirth Preparation class. A parent, usually the

mother, was contacted by telephone. The nature and purpose

of the study was explained. Parents were reassured that all

safety precautions would be taken in their infant's behalf.

Most parents wanted to participate and to observe their

infant's responses to the experiment.

The experimental procedure was scheduled at a time

convenient for the parents, usually midmorning. Each child

was first tested while held in his mother's arms. Ample time

was allowed for rest, feeding, and changing of the infant

between the first and second phases of each study. Each

infant had been examined previously by a pediatrician and

had been found healthy and without abnormalities.

On the day of the experiment, the procedure to be

followed was again reviewed and parents signed a consent

form (Appendix B) allowing their infants to participate in

the study.

Auditory Stimuli

The controlled auditory stimuli used were first recorded

on a Sony (Model TC105A) tape recorder, using a 1/4-inch

Scotch (#202) recording tape at a speed of 3 3/4 inches per

second. Five-second segments of the following 12 auditory

stimuli were recorded.

Human Voice (recorded live):

1. Sustained production of the vowel "ah" or /a/
by a male voice.

2. Sustained production of the vowel "ee" or /i/
by a male voice.

3. Sustained production of the vowel "ah" or /a/
by a female voice.

4. Sustained production of the vowel "ee" or /i/
by a female voice.

Human Speech (from a previous experimental tape recording
of Bzoch and Williams made in 1972).

1. An angry male voice saying the words, "stop
that," repeated.

2. A friendly male voice saying the words, "stop
that," repeated.

3. An angry female voice saying the words, "stop
that," repeated.

4. A friendly female voice saying the words, "stop
that," repeated.

Non-human Sound:

1. A baby beeper variable tone of 1,000 Hz used
as a screening test for hearing in newborns.

2. A pure tone from an audiometer at 1,000 Hz.

3. A segment of music, kettle drums from the
musical background of Richard III, used to
suggest a heavy, forceful quality like that
of an "angry" voice.

4. A segment of music from a music box used to
suggest a light quality like that of a
"friendly" voice.

The measured sound pressure level as well as the sub-

jective perception of loudness by two judges of each segment

listed above were carefully equalized on each of four master

tapes using a sound-pressure-level meter to a loudness level

of (approximately) 65 dB. Since the auditory stimuli in-

cluded human voice, speech samples, tones, and music, equal

loudness among these varying types of complex sounds could

be only closely approximated. However, the investigator

believed that through the procedure followed the factor of

loudness matching of each segment had been satisfactorally

controlled for the purposes of this study.

Four master tapes were prepared so that the order of

the auditory stimuli were different on each. This was done

in order to control any effect that order of presentation

might have. A table of random numbers (ITT, 1972) was used

to randomize the order of the auditory stimuli on the four

tapes (see Table 2).


Auditory Stimuli Tape Segment-
Chart of Random Order

Auditory Tape Tape Tape Tape
Stimuli I II III IV
Order Order Order Order

1. Angry Male 11 6 8 3
2. Friendly Male 10 4 5 5
3. Angry Female 3 5 2 10
4. Friendly Female 12 3 9 2
5. Baby Beeper 7 12 6 11
6. Pure Tone 9 7 1 1
7. Light Music 6 8 7 7
8. Heavy Music 2 11 10 4
9. Male (ah) 1 10 4 12
10. Male (ee) 8 9 3 9
11. Female (ah) 4 1 11 6
12. Female (ee) 5 2 12 8

The master tapes were prepared in the following manner.

A 30-second segment of silent tape was spliced between each

5-second segment of auditory stimuli, and at the beginning

and end of each tape. The four different orders of stimuli

presented in Table 2 were followed. Four different master

tapes (and a copy of each) were prepared.

In order to establish further control for the loudness

level received by the infants, a sound leader tape of non-

recorder visible plastic was placed at the beginning of each

tape. This was followed by a recorded tone of 400 Hz to be

used to set a standard sound pressure level of 70 dB (using

a Sound Level meter (GR1565-A)) before the collection of

data on each subject preceded. This procedure was followed

in order to be sure that the subjects all received the

stimuli at the same loudness level throughout the experiment.

The auditory stimuli tapes were presented free-field

on a two-channel Wollensak Stereo tape recorder (Model 5720)

with loudness held constant. On one channel the auditory

stimuli were recorded for presentation. The other channel

was prepared to play a 180 Hz tone beginning 10 seconds after

each auditory stimulus and ending 10 seconds before the next

auditory stimulus. This was done to synchronize and

standardize the ECG recording. This tone was used to

trigger a small cue light to go on and was not heard. The

cue light indicated to the operator of the electrocardio-

recorder to stop recording for that stimulus interval and

take up tape. Conversely, when the cue light went off, this

signaled that electrocardiographic recording was to begin

10 seconds prior to the next stimulus presentation (see

Appendix A).

Recording of ECG Data

The heart rate responses were recorded on an Avionic

(Model #425) Electrocardiorecorder with an on-and-off switch

and color coded electrodes. The electrocardiorecorder was

used to make a permanent record of each infant's heart rate

on magnetic tape. The portable ECG device used was battery

operated. This device was selected for use in this experi-

ment for safety purposes. The nurse supervisor in charge

of the ECG unit placed the electrodes on the infants and

operated the electrocardiorecorder. Electrodes were placed

in the following positions: white, just medial to the left

shoulder; green, lower right costal margin; red, fourth

intercostal space at the sternal border (V-l position).

With the electrodes in place and after an adjustment

period, the recorder was turned on for 60 seconds to obtain

a baseline tracing of each infant's heart rate before the

first stimulus was presented. After the recorder was turned

off, the tape was taken up by hand to separate the baseline

electrocardiogram from subsequent tracings. The electro-

cardiorecorder was turned on 10 seconds before each sound

stimulus. The signal for this was the cue light activated

by the second channel on the tape recorder. The electro-

cardiorecorder recorded electrical complexes from the heart

10 seconds before the sound stimulus, during the 5-second

stimulus, and for 10 seconds after the sound stimulus. The

electrocardiorecorder was then turned off and more tape was

taken up by hand to separate heart rate recordings (Appendix

A). The same procedure was followed for each of the 12

auditory stimuli on each sound tape.

At the completion of each experiment, the tape from the

electrocardiorecorder was rewound to the beginning and placed

on an Avionics Dynamic Electrocardioscanner (Model #660).

The scanner was tuned to the trend position. The 15 cardiac

cycles during each 25-second period of recording were thereby

averaged by the machine to determine the average cycles per


The tape was then rewound and cardiac cycles were pro-

jected on an oscilloscope, and a permanent electrocardiogram

was simultaneously made on heat-sensitive paper. The heart

rate was also measured from the permanent electrocardiogram,

thus providing a double check of the heart rate per minute

by use of both the trended heart rate and the actual rate

from the electrocardiogram.

Videotape Data Recording

Each infant's responses were videotape recorded with a

Fairchild TC-175 television camera fitted with a Cannon zoom

lens and placed on a Samson (Model Quick Set, Inc.) stand,

10 feet from the infant. A permanent videotape recording

was made on a sony AV-3600 recorder using a 1/2-inch helical

scan tape with a Sony F-95 microphone attached. Filming

was monitored on a Setchell-Carlson 2100 video monitor.

Frontal lighting was used for better definition of facial

expressions and to eliminate shadows.

A large faced clock was placed in the camera field to

give a permanent record of time. Afixed to the clock stand

was a display of the date, subject number, and stimulus tape

order presented.

Later, an Odetic timer (digital serial time apparatus)

was used to display time sequence down to tenths of a second

on each film. When the videotape of each infant was com-

pleted the digital serial time system was overlaid at the

bottom by a copying process. A clear permanent record of

subject number, tape segment, and display in minutes,

seconds, and tenths of seconds was thus obtained. A copy

was made of each video tape (Appendix A).

Testing Procedure

Each infant was tested first while held on the mother's

lap and then alone in an infant car seat placed on the floor.

The study was conducted in a well-lit, carpeted, acoustically

treated interior room of 12 feet by 24 feet. All testing

equipment except for the television camera was behind a

screen and not visible to the infant.

Infant in lap procedure. The mother was seated with

her infant in her lap in a chair at a 45 degree angle to the

camera. The video picture was regulated to include the

infant and the mother's head. After the electrocardiorecorder

electrodes were attached to the infant, a period of adjust-

ment to the surroundings was allowed before starting the

experimental procedure.

The mother was instructed to keep the infant in the

camera's view and was told that she would hear sounds during

the testing procedure. If she felt her infant needed com-

forting, she should do so, but she was told to try to remain

as still and quiet as possible while doing this.

When the infant and mother were comfortable and a base-

line heart rate recording had been made, one of the 7-minute

auditory stimulus tapes was selected and played. The in-

fant's behavioral responses were filmed by the videotape

apparatus and heart rate was recorded by the procedure


Infant in carseat procedure. Because of the young age

of the subjects a rest period of 10 to 20 minutes was allowed

between the two experimental procedures on each infant. The

infant was then placed in an infant carseat for the second

experimental procedure (Love Seat, General Motors) and this

was set on the floor. The mother sat near the infant but

not in his line of vision. If the infant required comforting

the mother was allowed to do so, but was urged to avoid

blocking the camera's view or picking up the infant.

When the infant appeared comfortable, the next auditory

stimulus tape in sequence was played and the infant's responses

were recorded as before. The first experiment in which the

infant was on his mother's lap was termed held and the

second in the infant seat was called not held. The time

required to prepare each infant and perform the held and

not held experiments was about half an hour, including the

rest period (Appendix A).

An observer recorded the state over time of each infant

during each experiment. The state of the infant was de-

scribed as either (1) crying, (2) awake, (3) drowsy,

(4) sleeping, or (5) other. The term mixed was used to

describe an infant with a variable state of attention

throughout an experiment. The recording form (Appendix B)

included a column for averaged heart rate during each

stimulus for later statistical purposes.

Analysis of Data

Both the ECG and videotape data collected in the above

procedure were analyzed for the purpose of this investi-

gation. The data collected from the videotape were analyzed


ECG analysis. To test for differences in heart rate

response between the held and not-held positions, the differ-

ence between the heart rate in each position was taken for

all 12 stimuli and tested by the single F test. This is

equivalent to running a t-test for each of the 12 stimuli

(Morrison, 1967).

Heart rate responses were also analyzed to determine

whether a significantly different change was produced by

different human voice, human speech, and non-human sound

stimuli. A randomized block design was used in each case

since each infant was subject to each stimulus. The F test

that was performed in each case is equivalent to the ANOVA

for a randomized block design in which one tests for any

differences among responses to the four human voice, four

human speech, and four non-human sound stimuli.

Videotape analysis. Three judges, who had each had

previous experience in observing infant responses to sound,

independently viewed and recorded their judgments of each

infant's apparent response to each stimulus. They both

viewed and listened to the playback of the experiment to

make their judgments. Changes in behavior that were looked

for included cessation of activity, increased activity

(for example, increase in, or cessation of, sucking), or

facial expressions (smile, mouth movements, frowns, startle,

eye movements, etc.). A definite observable change in

behavior following an auditory stimulus was recorded as "Yes"

and judged as apparent. A probable change in behavior was

also recorded as "Yes" and marked as possible. A lack of

any observable response was recorded as "No." If the infant

was crying or asleep during a sound stimulus, a check was

made in the "Infant Unable to Respond" column on the re-

cording form. Neither "Yes" nor "No" judgments resulted

under this condition. Also, if defects in videotaping

occurred for any segment, a check was placed in the "Film

Not Clear" column and no "Yes" or "No" judgment was at-

tempted (Appendix B).

Statistical Analysis of Observer Judgments

The majority response (i.e., at least two out of three

identical judgments) recorded by the three judges was used

as the final data set for calculations of each infant's

responses to sound stimuli. A test of interobserver reli-

ability of these data was first computed by the value of a

statistic kappa, which is essentially the percentage of

agreement between pairs of judges, adjusted for the agree-

ment expected due to chance alone. The statistic takes the

value unity when the judges always agree, zero when the

agreement is exactly the percentage predicted by chance,

and positive or negative values according to whether agree-

ment exceeds or falls short of that predicted by chance

(Light, 1971).

An analysis was then made of any differences found for

the total experimental sample between the held and the not

held conditions. A sign test was used to determine whether

this factor influenced the degree of infant response.

A further analysis was run to determine whether there

was an interaction between the sex of the infant and the sex

of the speaker. This was accomplished by comparing the pro-

portions of "Yes" responses to male and to female human

speech stimuli and comparing these data for male and the


female subjects. The Fisher's Exact Test for 2 x 2 tables

was used (Fisher, 1973).

Finally, an analysis was made to determine whether in-

fants showed a preference for human voice and speech stimuli

versus non-human sound stimuli. The sign test was used for

this purpose. The same method was applied to all pairwise

comparisons between stimuli.



The findings are presented below, first, in terms of

the analysis made by videotape observations, second, by

electrocardiography analysis, and third, by a summary of

major findings.

Videotape Observations

The first step in the analysis of the videotape obser-

vation judgmental data was to determine the degree of inter-

judge reliability. To determine the degree of agreement

among the three observers scoring videotaped infant responses

the interobserver reliability was computed by the value of

a statistic kappa (Light, 1971) and produced a K of 0.60.

The significance of this value was assessed as compared to

zero (percentage predicted by chance) using the standard

error 0.12. A z-score of 5.00 was obtained, which is highly

significant. Thus, there was a high level of reliability

achieved in the observer data. All subsequent analyses,

therefore, were based on consensus judgments (majority

opinions), and the investigator felt justified in considering

these data to be both valid and reliable indices of infant

responses to auditory stimuli. The next step in the

analysis was to determine if any significant differences

occurred when the infants were in the held or in the not

held conditions.

In comparing the overall proportions of "Yes" responses

for the held and not held positions for each infant, six

infants had a greater proportion of "Yes" responses in the

held position, 11 had a greater proportion when not held,

and 5 were ties. These findings were not significant (p > .3)

using the sign test. Thus, responses were not significantly

affected by whether the infant was held or not held.

The interaction between the sex of the infant and the

sex of the speaker of the human voice stimuli was examined

with the Fisher Exact Test for 2 x 2 tables (Table 3).


Interaction Between Sex of Infants
and Sex of Preferred Voice

Sex of Sex of Preferred Voice
Subject Male Female Total

Male 3 2 5
Female 2 3 5
Total 5 5 10

Table 3 includes data showing only the number of subjects,

by sex, who showed a more frequent response to male or to

female voice stimuli. It can be seen from Table 3 that 3 of

the 13 male subjects responded more frequently to male voice

stimuli and 2 more frequently to female voices. The

remaining 8 responded equally to both types of stimuli.

Conversely, 2 of the 10 female subjects appeared to prefer

(respond to) male speakers and 3 to female speakers. The

results are not significant, indicating a lack of preference

for either male or female voices by infants of either sex.

Next, it was desired to get an overall indication of

the possible preference of the infants for human voice as

against non-human stimuli. Table 4 shows the number of

subjects who responded more frequently to human voice, to

non-human stimuli, or equally to both. It can be seen from

Table 4 that 14 infants showed a greater proportion of

positive responses to human voice stimuli, 4 to non-human

sound stimuli, and 5 were tied,


Number of Subjects Showing a Preference
to Human or to Non-Human Stimuli

Preference for Preference for
Human Voice Non-Human No
Stimuli Stimuli Preference

No. of Subjects 14 4 5

The sign test was used to assess the significance of

the differences found. The findings represent a significant

statistical difference (p < .05), indicating preference for

human voice stimuli.

The same statistical method, the sign test, was applied

for making all pairwise comparisons between stimuli. The

results of this analysis appear in Table 5.


Partial Ranking of Stimuli Based on Pairwise
Comparisons at the 5 Percent Level

3 1 2,4,6,7,9,10,11 5,8 12

Note: No pair of stimuli underscored by the same line
is to be declared significantly different.

The stimuli (Table 5) are partially ranked according

to the number of infants showing a preference on a pairwise

basis. There were only a few significant comparisons at

the .05 level. For example, stimulus 12 (angry female)

produced a response significantly more often than did

either stimulus 1 (light music) or stimulus 3 (baby beeper).

Stimulus 5 (male "ah") and stimulus 8 (angry male), pro-

duced the next ranked proportions of positive responses.

This rank order of positive responses may suggest that the

human voice is a practical tool for use in gaining auditory

attention from an infant in free-field hearing testing of


Making all possible pairwise comparisons introduces an

important element for possible error. Even if there are no

real statistical differences, if many comparisons are made,

chance alone will lead to a few observed significant

differences. For further information, a key to the stimulus

codes and a rank order of each stimuli are shown in Table 6.


Stimulus Codes and Overall Proportions of
Positive Response p (ignoring "checks")

Number Stimulus p Rank Order

1 Light music .795 11
2 Pure tone .805 10
3 Baby beeper .791 12
4 Heavy music .881 6
5 Male AH .953 2
6 Male EE .930 4
7 Friendly male .857 7
8 Angry male .951 3
9 Female EE .854 8
10 Female AH .900 5
11 Friendly female .829 9
12 Angry female .976 1

Heart Rate Change Data

The ECG data for each 25-second test interval were

recorded on a table in the order of presentation for each

subject under each condition. The changes in heart rate,

whether decreases or increases, were those calculated for

each stimulus period from the previous or baseline rate.

Twenty-two infants had electrocardiographic recordings

satisfactory enough for analysis. The single F test,

equivalent to running a t-test for each of the 12 stimuli,

showed no significant difference in heart rate response to

all stimuli regardless of whether the infant was held or

not held.

To determine whether heart rate response was affected

differently by human voice sounds, human speech, and non-

human sound stimuli, a randomized block design was used in

each case because each infant was subject to each stimulus.

The F test, equivalent to the ANOVA for a randomized block

design, showed a lack of significant difference in each

instance. Table 7 shows the mean and standard deviations

of average heart rate for all subjects on each stimuli.

It can be seen that wide standard deviations existed across

all stimuli indicating wide variation in individual heart

rate measures for all subjects. Thus, none of the stimuli

had a significant effect on the infant's heart rate.

A major difficulty in the heart rate response experi-

ments was that infants were in different attentive states.

Infants might fall asleep or cry, some wanted to be nursed,

while some were distracted or began hiccuping. These fac-

tors influenced the heart rate regardless of other variables.

The number of infants that remained alert and quiet through-

out the experiment were too few to sample to arrive at

statistically significant results.

Summary of Results

The major hypothesis of this study, that infants respond

preferentially to human rather than non-human auditory


Infant Study ECG Data

Heart Female Male Angry Female Light
Rate (ah) (ee) Female (ee) Music


Mean 106.0 101.6 106.1 113.8 111.9 105.1

SD 30.9 40.0 40.3 34.1 30.9 34.5

Not held

Mean 109.3 108.5 108.0 106.6 112.1 107.2

SD 31.3 28.1 34.3 26.4 22.1 30.5

TABLE 7: Extended









Heavy Friendly
Music Female







27.1 31.1 33.3













-~=I--==~--~- ---- ------

30.7 29.0

25.6 25.0

stimuli, is supported by the behavioral data recorded from

the videotape study. It appears that the heart rate data

is too variable at this age range to indicate any signifi-

cant trends in auditory responses to these stimuli.

Four-, five-,and six-week-old infants statistically

appear to show a significantly greater number of behavioral

responses to human as opposed to non-human auditory stimuli.

Whether infants are held or not held does not effect these

responses. Male and female infants respond alike, with

neither sex showing a preference for tape recorded auditory

stimuli of either male or female voices.

Infants of both sexes responded significantly more often

to the angry female voice than to baby beeper or the light

music. Further, all infants responded significantly more

frequently to the angry male and the male "ah" stimuli than

to the baby beeper. The rank order of frequency of responses

to specific stimuli shows a trend in that five of the most

frequent six responses out of 12 stimuli used were to human


The heart rate was not significantly altered by any

of the experimental parameters that influenced the behavioral

responses of the infants. The varying basal attention state

of the infants may have affected these heart rate results.



This experimental study examined changes in behavior

and heart rate to different auditory stimuli in infants of

4, 5, and 6 weeks of age. Infants of this age were selected

to determine whether changes in behavior or heart rate to

auditory stimuli would occur this early in life. League

and Bzoch (1968, 1970) in their longitudinal study of infants

from birth to 15 months of age found evidence of early

infant response to the human voice. The intent of this

study was to ascertain whether these infants would show

preferential behavioral and heart rate changes to human

speech sounds over non-human sounds. The major finding was

that infants of this age do respond preferentially to the

human voice rather than to non-human sounds. The findings

supported Lennenberg's (1967) theory that language is bio-

logically predetermined for human beings.

The very young age of the infants makes the experi-

mental procedure interesting and challenging. Infants are

non-verbal and their state of attention is variable. Rapid

alterations in motor activity and bodily functions occur

which present many problems for data collection. The effects

of sounds on behavior and heart rate were selected to pro-

vide different responses that could be compared.

The scoring by judges of videotaped recordings of

behavioral effects gave statistically significant and

reliable results. This study showed that data collection

of behavioral responses for this age subject using video-

tape is an acceptable method for providing a permanent

record that could be repeatedly viewed. A suggested improve-

ment in videotaping infant responses would be to take a

closeup view of the infant during the test procedures rather

than including the mother in the picture since whether the

infant was held or not held by the mother produced no

statistically significant difference in infant behavioral

responses. Furthermore, if a color cue could be superimposed

on the video picture before the beginning of the 5-second

stimulus segment this might provide a visual aid to the

judges indicating that the stimulus is about to begin. This

color cue might be used in addition to the auditory stimulus

which the judges are listening to as the videotape is being

played. The present method as reported, however, was found

to be valid and reliable.

The procedure for recording electrocardiograms on in-

fants of this age presented many problems. The electro-

cardiographic monitoring was not a difficult procedure but

the question which arose was important. Was the change in

heart rate that was being measured a result of the sound

stimuli or was it the result of cries, hiccuping, body move-

ments, sucking on a nipple, or any other number of bodily

states? The varying attentive states of the infants and

the wide variability of heart rate from infant to infant in

the resting state does not make it possible to definitively

answer this question.

The infants showed no statistically significant changes

in heart rate in response to the auditory stimuli used in

this study. This is most likely due to the immaturity or

lack of adequate development of the autonomic nervous system

at this age rather than to a lack of affective responses

by the infants. That responses do occur to the auditory

stimuli used was shown by the behavioral observation data.

Infants of 4, 5, and 6 weeks of age in this study did

not show significant changes in heart rate in response to

the auditory stimuli, but older infants with a more mature

autonomic nervous system might. An electrocardiographic

monitoring system has been designed which provides a beat-

by-beat continuous determination of heart rate (Motorola

AN-714). A battery operated instrument such as this would

give a more accurate display of beat-by-beat data for use

with infants. Also, if the investigator were to use heart

rate measurements again in future research such as this, an

attempt would be made to record the heart beats from 1 or 2

seconds prior to the introduction of a stimulus, during the

stimulus, and for 10 seconds post-stimulus, rather than for

a duration of 10 seconds pre-stimulus, as had been designed

for this study. The attempt to obtain an average heart

rate by including a baseline reading may dampen the results

of the heart rate for the presenting sound stimulus. Never-

theless, electrocardiography as a physiological measurement

of heart rate response should be considered a potential

method for use with older infants when the heart rate has

begun to stabilize until proven otherwise.

The major findings of this investigation indicate the

need for further research dealing with the perception and

response of infants to auditory stimuli as a means of better

understanding how language is acquired. It may be that as

early as two weeks of age the infant is able to selectively

attend to intonation patterns and qualities of the human

voice. Not only the humaness of the sound, but also the

voice quality and intonation of the speaker have been found

to be important in the type of response elicited. Different

voice qualities produce different affective responses

(Costanzo, Markel, and Costanzo, 1969) and voice quality

imparts information about the speaker's personality (Markel,


Further research should be designed to present fewer

auditory stimuli at one listening period. Testing infants

from birth to 6 months of age might show when a preferential

discrimination is made between voice qualities and among

varying patterns of voice intonation. Of the 12 stimuli

used in the study, a greater behavioral response was elicited

by 5 of the 8 human sounds and by 1 of the 4 non-human sounds.

In future research, instead of presenting 12 stimuli, only

2 could be used in an experiment to more clearly delineate

responses between sounds.

The results of this study support the theory of bio-

logic predisposition to language among humans. Infants

become familiar with the human voice and respond differ-

entially to human sounds even before these sounds convey

word meaning. Further investigation is needed to determine

at what age infants begin to demonstrate a preference, if

any, for male or female voices. The research suggested

would add valuable knowledge to the field of psycholinguis-

tics and improve our understanding of the psychological

implications of the human voice in personality development.

The preferential response of infants to human voice

sounds implies a biological basis for this preference, and

further suggests that language acquisition is facilitated

by hearing other humans speak. If this is true, it has

application to clinical pediatric audiology. Human voice

stimuli in place of the baby beeper could be used to test

infant hearing shortly after birth. A standardized tape

recording of human voices could be used in free field

audiometry to test the hearing of infants.

In conclusion, an increased understanding of speech

perception by infants can lead to a better appreciation of

the method of language acquisition by infants.


The major hypothesis that infants respond to the human

voice in preference to non-human sounds is supported by the

results of this study. Twenty-three normal Caucasian in-

fants, 4, 5, and 6 weeks of age, were studied for changes

in behavioral and heart rate in response to auditory stimuli.

The stimuli included male and female voices, human speech

samples, and non-human sounds of pure tones and music. Video-

tape and electrocardiographic recordings were made of each

infant during the presentation of the 12 tape recorded sound

stimuli. Each sound stimulus was presented for 5 seconds

followed by a 30-second period of silence.

The findings of this study are that 4-, 5-, and 6-week-

old infants show no significantly different response in

behavior to auditory stimuli whether held or not held by

their mothers, and responded significantly more often to

human than to non-human sounds. Neither male nor female in-

fants showed a preference for voices of the same or opposite

sex. Statistically, a significantly greater number of

behavioral responses were elicited by the angry female,

angry male, and male "ah" stimuli.

Although behavioral changes were noted in response to

the stimuli, no significant alteration in heart rate was

observed. The variability of heart rate in infancy and the

behavioral state of the infant may be factors that dampen

or obscure changes in heart rate in response to auditory



The observation that infants react preferentially

to human as compared to non-human sounds supports the

hypothesis that infants are biologically predisposed to





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University of Florida
Dissertation Study of Emergent Language Development
Consent Form

1. In order to learn how your baby begins to understand
what you say and how to speak, we would like to obtain TV
films of you and your baby while you are listening to sounds.
We are interested in how your infant responds to the things
he or she hears. While you are being filmed, you will be
seated with your baby on your lap. A nurse will assist to
record the baby's heart rate; (this is done by taking a
heart tracing, called electrocardiography) as you listen to
sounds and human voices played on a tape recorder. There
is nothing in this study that will be of any danger to your
child. The time for making the video film to record this
information is approximately six minutes. The procedure will
be repeated with the infant listening alone in an infant
seat. These TV films and recordings will be studied and
compared with responses of other infants who are partici-
pating in this study. The information obtained will help
us better understand the importance of the infant's interest
in sounds in the environment.

2. I have read and understand the above described procedure
in which I am to participate with my infant. I consent to
have my child, birthdate_
participate in this dissertation study accepting full
responsibility, and the information used for research,
teaching and publication purposes.

3. Signed




ECG Data Form

Subject Name

Date Birthdate Parents

Address Phone

Tape I

Stimulus Order Heart Rate
Time Comments
1-11 Female (ah)

2-10 Male (ee)

3-3 Angry female

4-12 Female (ee)

5-7 Pleasant music

6-9 Male (ah)

7-6 Pure tone

8-2 Friendly male

9-1 Angry male

10-8 Unpleasant music

11-4 Friendly female

12-5 Baby beeper

ECG Data Form





Stimulus Order

1-6 Pure tone

2-4 Friendly female

3-5 Baby beeper

4-3 Angry female

5-12 Female (ee)

6-7 Pleasant music

7-8 Unpleasant music

8-11 Female (ah)

9-10 Male (ee)

10-9 Male (ah)

11-1 Angry male

12-2 Friendly male

Heart Rate
Time Comments




Tape II



ECG Data Form

Subject Name

Date Birthdate Parents

Address Phone

Tape III

Stimulus Order Heart Rate
Time Comments
1-8 Unpleasant music

2-5 Baby beeper

3-2 Friendly male

4-9 Male (ah)

5-6 Pure tone

6-1 Angry male

7-7 Pleasant music

8-10 Male (ee)

9-4 Friendly female

10-3 Angry female

11-11 Female (ah)

12-12 Female (ee)

ECG Data Form

Subject Name

Date Birthdate Parents

Address Phone


The scoring by judges of videotaped recordings of

behavioral effects gave statistically significant and

reliable results. This study showed that data collection

of behavioral responses for this age subject using video-

tape is an acceptable method for providing a permanent

record that could be repeatedly viewed. A suggested improve-

ment in videotaping infant responses would be to take a

closeup view of the infant during the test procedures rather

than including the mother in the picture since whether the

infant was held or not held by the mother produced no

statistically significant difference in infant behavioral

responses. Furthermore, if a color cue could be superimposed

on the video picture before the beginning of the 5-second

stimulus segment this might provide a visual aid to the

judges indicating that the stimulus is about to begin. This

color cue might be used in addition to the auditory stimulus

which the judges are listening to as the videotape is being

played. The present method as reported, however, was found

to be valid and reliable.

The procedure for recording electrocardiograms on in-

fants of this age presented many problems. The electro-

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Constance Caranasos was born on July 22, 1934, in

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the daughter of Nicholas James

Demeter, M. D., and Ella Trahadias Demeter. After completion

of public school education in Milwaukee she entered Wisconsin

State College in Milwaukee where she majored in Exceptional

Education/Speech Correction, and minored in Psychology. She

received Key membership in Sigma Alpha Eta, national speech

and hearing honorary society in 1954. Upon receiving her

Bachelor of Science degree in 1955, she moved to Columbus,

Georgia, and established the first program of Speech Correc-

tion Services for the Muscogee County School System. In

1956 she founded and became director of Speech Therapy for

the Cerebral Palsy Center in Muscogee County, Columbus,

Georgia. Clinical Certification in the American Speech and

Hearing Association under the sponsorship of Dr. Stanley

Ainsworth, University of Georgia was obtained in 1957. She

organized the first Chapter of the Council for Exceptional

Children in Columbus, Georgia in 1958 and in 1959 she was

awarded an Elks Foundation Scholarship to Boston University.

In 1960 she established the first Speech Therapy Service at

the Sunland Training Center, the State Institution for

Mentally Retarded in Gainesville, Florida. From 1962 to

1964 she was a Speech and Language Therapist in the Depart-

ment of Communicative Disorders, College of Health Related

Professions at the University of Florida. An honorary

membership was given to her by the Alpha Delta Chapter

of Sigma Alpha Eta at the University of Florida in 1963.

She became a member of the Florida Speech and Hearing

association and the Florida Cleft Palate Association.

After moving to Washington, D. C., in 1964 she became

Speech Pathologist and clinical supervisor of Speech

Pathology students doing clinical practicum experience at

the Children's Hospital Speech Center. Upon receiving an

Office of Education Fellowship she returned to the University

of Wisconsin in Milwaukee from 1966 to 1967 for graduate

study and received a Master of Science degree. In 1967 she

founded and became Director of the Milwaukee Children's

Hospital's first Speech Clinic. Further, she established

the first liaison for training of graduate students in

clinical Speech Pathology at the University of Wisconsin

in Milwaukee with the Milwaukee Children's Hospital. She

held a joint appointment with the University of Wisconsin

as Communication Specialist, Speech Pathology. With active

support from the Pilot Club of Milwaukee, the Speech Center

became a project of this professional women's service club.

She participated as Speech Pathologist for the Cleft Palate

Team of Milwaukee Children's Hospital and conducted research

with Sidney K. Wynn, M. D., and Ralph Leutenegger, Ph.D.,

which resulted in the publication of an article entitled

Speech Status of Post-Adolescents Following Bone Flap

Palatal Surgery. She presented a paper, "An Interdisciplinary

Approach to Evaluation of Communication Disorders," and

chaired a panel discussion on the Interdisciplinary Team

Approach using Diagnostic Speech Therapy at the 1968

Wisconsin Speech and Hearing Association Convention. As

Director of the Speech Center at Milwaukee Children's

Hospital she participated actively in providing information

to the public regarding the services of this program. She

became a member of the American Cleft Palate Association in

1968. In 1969 she was invited to return to the University

of Florida as Speech and Language Therapist and Clinical

Instructor in the Department of Communicative Disorders,

College of Health Related Professions. In 1970 she pre-

sented a paper on Diagnostic Speech Therapy to the Learning

Problems Conference for Pediatricians and Teachers directed

by Dr. John Ross, pediatric neurologist, conducted at the

Medical Center of the University of Florida. She entered

the Graduate School at the University of Florida, to begin

work toward the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. Her major

study has been Speech Pathology in the Department of Speech,

College of Arts and Sciences.

She is married to George J. Caranasos, M. D., and has

a daughter, Ellen Constance Caranasos.

I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

Vernon D. VanDeRiet /
Associate Professor of
Clinical Psychology

I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

Kenqeth R. Bzoch, ChaiRan
Professor of Speech

I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

Norman N. Markel
Professor of Speech

I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

Paul Moore
Professor of Speech

This dissertation was submitted to the Graduate Faculty
of the Department of Speech in the College of Arts and
Sciences and to the Graduate Council, and was accepted
as partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree
of Doctor of Philosophy.

March, 1976
Dean, Graduate School


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