Source: University of Sussex
Summary: Gender stereotyping may start as young as three months, according to a study of babies' cries. Despite no actual difference in pitch between the voices of girls and boys before puberty, the study found that adults make gender assumptions about babies based on their cries.
Gender stereotyping may start as young as three months, according to a study of babies' cries from the University of Sussex. Adults attribute degrees of femininity and masculinity to babies based on the pitch of their cries, as shown by a new study by researchers from the University of Sussex, the University of Lyon/Saint-Etienne and Hunter College City University of New York. The research is published in the journal BMC Psychology. The researchers recorded the spontaneous cries of 15 boys and 13 girls who were on average four months old. The team also synthetically altered the pitch of the cries while leaving all other features of the cries unchanged to ensure they could isolate the impact of the pitch alone. The participating adults were a mixture of parents and non-parents.
The study found:
•Adults often wrongly assume babies with higher-pitched cries are female and lower pitched cries are male
•When told the gender of the baby, adults make assumptions about the degree of masculinity or femininity of the baby, based on the pitch of the cry
•Adults generally assume that babies with higher-pitched cries are in more intense discomfort
•Men who are told that a baby is a boy tend to perceive greater discomfort in the cry of the baby. This is likely to be due to an ingrained stereotype that boy babies should have low-pitched cries. (There was no equivalent finding for women, or for men's perception of baby girls.)
Journal Reference: David Reby, Florence Levréro, Erik Gustafsson, Nicolas Mathevon. Sex stereotypes influence adults’ perception of babies’ cries. BMC Psychology, 2016; 4 (1) DOI: 10.1186/s40359-016-0123-6