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Baby's Cries Hint at Adult Voice

Voice pitch could be determined in the womb: study
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 17, 2018 12:56 PM CDT
A baby cries in its bed in a hospital in Bremen, northern Germany.   (AP Photo/Joerg Sarbach)

(Newser) – Whether you have a high-pitched voice or a lower one, a new study suggests that it was probably evident when you were just a baby. As previous research has suggested voice pitch is unchanging in adulthood and nearly set in stone by age 7, researchers in France and the UK set out to explore just how early the pitch of one's speech might be determined, per a release. Their study, published in the journal Biology Letters, reveals the pitch of babies' cries is "a significant and substantial predictor of the pitch of their speech" at age 5, per the New York Times. Given that research suggests a high-pitched voice is tied to less testosterone exposure in the womb, and vice versa, researchers say it's possible that "a substantial proportion" of differences in voice pitch are determined in utero.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life—not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," says researcher Nicolas Mathevon, who compared the "mild discomfort cries" of 4- and 5-year-olds (six French girls and nine French boys) with the same children's cries as infants. The results leads Discover to predict a future reality show following "celebrity judges as they scour maternity wards … for the iconic voice of a new generation." But though the study is "intriguing" based on its suggestion "that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development," Carolyn Hodges of Boston University notes the small sample size raises the risk "that it is not representative of the population as a whole." (Women may hear their voice drop after pregnancy.)

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