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A traveling exhibition about the sounds and songs of life

Sandra Trehub

Sandra Trehub

Sandra TrehubPhoto Credit: Ron Matthews

The principal focus of Sandra Trehub's external link icon research is on the development of listening skills in infants and young children. Her findings indicate we’re all born with music-appreciation skills.

She has given music-listening tests to adults and newborns and discovered they have surprisingly similar abilities. Infants naturally respond to change and pay attention to anything new and different. Trehub and her colleagues use that fact to see if babies react to musical changes. In one experiment, an infant sits in its mother’s lap, watching a puppet show. A simple melody plays from a speaker off to the side. At random points, a single note changes. In most cases the child turns toward the speaker, indicating that it noticed the subtle difference. Experiments like this have shown that babies recognize differences in tone, melody, key and rhythm as well as (and sometimes better than) adults.