Adults learn to identify pain in babies’ cries

Because the expression of pain in babies’ cries is based on universal acoustic features, we tested wether adult listeners should be able to detect when a crying baby is experiencing pain. We report that detecting that a baby’s cry expresses pain actually requires learning through experience. Our psychoacoustic experiments reveal that adults with no experience of caring for babies are unable to identify whether a baby’s cry is a pain.  In contrast, people with prior experience of babies identify a familiar baby’s pain cries without having heard these cries before.

The paper can be downloaded here.

press release here