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Baby cry recognition is independent of motherhood but improved by experience and exposure

Citation

Bouchet, Hélène et al. (2020), Baby cry recognition is independent of motherhood but improved by experience and exposure, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.83bk3j9n2

Abstract

Neurobiological changes affecting new mothers are known to support the development of the mother-infant relationship (the “maternal brain”). However, which aspects of parenting are actually mother-specific and which rely on general cognitive abilities remains debated. For example, refuting earlier findings, a recent study demonstrated that fathers identify their own baby from their cries just as well as mothers. Here we show that this performance is not only independent of sex, but also of parenthood status. We found that mothers’ ability to recognize their newborn from their cries increased rapidly within few days postpartum, with highly multiparous mothers performing better. However, both male and female nonparents could similarly recognize an assigned baby, even after a very short exposure. As in mothers, both the initial amount of experimental exposure to the baby’s cries (learning opportunity) and prior experience of caring for infants (auditory expertise) affected participants’ performance. We thus suggest that, rather than being female-specific or motherhood-dependent, the ability to recognise a baby from their cries derives from general auditory and learning skills. By being available to nonparents of both sexes it may contribute to the caregiving flexibility required for efficient cooperative breeding in humans.

Usage Notes

Supporting dataset for Experiment 1: Individual recognition of newborns from their cries in postpartum mothers

Experiment 1 aimed at evaluating postpartum mothers’ ability to recognize their own baby from their cries. More specifically, we tested whether this ability was influenced by their baby’s age at the time of testing, their baby’s age at the time of recording, their own age, their parity status, and the testing stage.

List of variables :

MumID = mother’s identity (included in the model as a random factor)

AgeMum = participant’s age at the time of the experiment (in years)

Parity = participant’s number of offspring at the time of the experiment (coded as “P1” = no previous offspring, “P2” = has already had 1 offspring, “P3” = has already had 2 or more offspring)

Baby = baby’s category coded as “own” vs. “stranger” baby

AgeTest = own baby’s age at the time of the experiment (in decimal hours)

AgeRec = own baby’s age at the time of stimuli recording (in decimal hours)

Test = test number coded as “Test1” vs. “Test2” (i.e. first versus second series of 15 cries)

Response = mothers’ answers, at whether each cry belonged to their offspring (1 = “yes”) or not (0 = “no”)

 

Supporting dataset for Experiment 2: Individual recognition of newborns from their cries in non-parents

Experiment 2 aimed at evaluating non-parents’ ability to recognize a given experimentally “assigned” baby from their cries. More specifically, we tested whether this ability was affected by their sex, their age, their prior experience at caring for babies, their current exposure to babies, and the testing stage.

List of variables :

ParticipantID = tested participant’s identity (included in the model as a random factor).

Sex = participant’s sex (“female” vs. “male”),

Age = participant’s age (in years),    

Experience = participant’s experience at caring for baby less than 1 year old (coded as “yes” = already cared for babies, “no” = never cared for babies),

Exposure = participant’s current exposure to babies aged less than 1 year old (coded as “yes” = have a baby in their family circle, their circle of friends or their neighbourhood, “no” = have not spent time with any baby recently),

Baby = baby’s category coded as “assigned” vs. “stranger” baby,

BabyID = assigned baby’s identity (included in the model as a random factor)

Test = test number coded as “Test1” vs. “Test2” vs. “Test3” vs. “Test4” (i.e. first, second, third or fourth series of 15 cries),

Response = participants’ answers, at whether each cry belonged to their assigned baby (1 = “yes”) or not (0 = “no”)

 

Supporting dataset for Experiment 3: Effect of exposure on non-parents’ ability to recognise a newborn from their cries

Experiment 3 aimed at evaluating non-parents’ ability to recognize a given experimentally “assigned” baby from their cries depending on the quantity of input received during the training phase (participants’ sex, age and prior experience at caring for babies were balanced across training conditions). More specifically, we tested whether this ability was influenced by the quantity of input received during training (1 to 6 cries heard during training), and the testing stage.

List of variables :

ParticipantID = tested participant’s identity (included in the model as a random factor).

Baby = baby’s category coded as “assigned” vs. “stranger” baby,

BabyID = assigned baby’s identity (included in the model as a random factor)

Input = participant’s input during the training phase (1 to 6 crying samples, taken as a continuous variable),

Test = test number coded as “Test1” vs. “Test2” vs. “Test3” vs. “Test4” (i.e. first, second, third or fourth series of 15 cries),

Response = participants’ answers, at whether each cry belonged to their assigned baby (1 = “yes”) or not (0 = “no”)