Voices are learned by babies in the womb

In the article “Fetal Psychology” scientists explain how a baby learns to differentiate between voices while in her mother’s womb. This article appeared in the reputable publication Psychology Today.

“Along with the ability to feel, see, and hear comes the capacity to learn and remember. … For example, a fetus, after an initial reaction of alarm, eventually stops responding to a repeated loud noise. The fetus displays the same kind of primitive learning, known as habituation, in response to its mother’s voice, Fifer has found.

But the fetus has shown itself capable of far more. In the 1980s, psychology professor Anthony James DeCasper, Ph.D., and colleagues at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, devised a feeding contraption that allows a baby to suck faster to hear one set of sounds through headphones and to suck slower to hear a different set. With this technique, DeCasper discovered that within hours of birth, a baby already prefers its mother’s voice to a stranger’s, suggesting it must have learned and remembered the voice, albeit not necessarily consciously, from its last months in the womb. More recently, he’s found that a newborn prefers a story read to it repeatedly in the womb – in this case, The Cat in the Hat - over a new story introduced soon after birth.

DeCasper and others have uncovered more mental feats. Newborns can not only distinguish their mother from a stranger speaking, but would rather hear Mom’s voice, especially the way it sounds filtered through amniotic fluid rather than through air. …

By monitoring changes in fetal heart rate, psychologist JeanPierre Lecanuet, Ph.D., and his colleagues in Paris have found that fetuses can even tell strangers’ voices apart.”

Janet L. Hopson “Fetal Psychology” Psychology Today, Sep/Oct98, Vol. 31 Issue 5, p44, 6p, 4c.


18 weeks.

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Sarah is a member of the board of The Pro-life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians.
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