Journal of Nonverbal Behavior

, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 143–158 | Cite as

Baby talk to the babyfaced

  • Leslie A. Zebrowitz
  • Sheila Brownlow
  • Karen Olson
Article

Abstract

The power of an infantile appearance to elicit baby talk was investigated by assessing the use of baby talk in task instructions to four-year-old children, who were portrayed as either relatively babyfaced or maturefaced. Men and women taught two tasks to a randomly selected boy or girl via a telephone conversation after being shown a photograph, which presumably depicted the child whom they were instructing. Paralleling facial differences between babies and adults, babyfaced children had rounder faces, larger eyes, thinner eyebrows, and smaller noses than the maturefaced. As predicted, adults used more baby talk when instructing babyfaced than maturefaced children. This effect was manifested in linguistic indicators of baby talk (slow timing and high clarification, simplification, and attention maintenance), as well as in paralinguistic indicators of baby talk (high pitch and changing intonation). The receipt of linguistic baby talk, in turn, facilitated the child's ability to choose a card which matched the one being described. The fact that facial babyishness influenced baby talk even when baby- and maturefaced children were equated in age, attractiveness, and perceived competence suggests that a small approximation to the craniofacial qualities that distinguish infants from adults may in and of itself be sufficient to elicit this speech register.

Keywords

Social Psychology Slow Timing Task Instruction High Pitch Telephone Conversation 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Berry, D. S., & McArthur, L. Z. (1986). Perceiving character in faces. The impact of agerelated craniofacial changes on social perception.Psychological Bulletin, 100 3–18.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Bohannon, J. N., & Marquis, A. L. (1977). Children's control of adult speech.Child Development, 48 1002–1008.Google Scholar
  3. Brown, R. (1977). Introduction. In C. E. Snow & C. A. Ferguson (Eds.)Talking to children (pp. 1–27). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Caporael, L. R. (1981). The paralanguage of caregiving: Baby talk to the institutionalized aged.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 40 876–884.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Caporael, L. R., Lukaszewski, M., & Culbertson, G. (1983). Secondary babytalk: Judgments by institutionalized elderly and their caregivers.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 44 746–754.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Cross, T. G. (1977). Mothers' speech adjustments: the contribution of selected child listener variables. In C. E. Snow & C. A. Ferguson (Eds.)Talking to children (pp. 151–188). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  7. DePaulo, B. M., & Coleman, L. M. (1986). Talking to children, foreigners, and retarded adults.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51 945–959.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Dunn, J., & Kendrick, C. (1982). The speech of two- and three-year-olds to infant siblings: “Baby talk” and the context of communication.Journal of Child Language, 9 579–595.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Ferguson, C. A. (1964). Babytalk in six languages.American Anthropologist, 66 103–114.Google Scholar
  10. Ferguson, C. A. (1977). Baby talk as a simplified register. In C. E. Snow & C. A. Ferguson (Eds.)Talking to children (pp. 209–235). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Flavell, J. H., Botkin, P. T., Fry, C. L., Wright, J. W., & Jarvis, P. E. (1968).The development of role-taking and communication skills in children. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.Google Scholar
  12. Garnica, O. K. (1977). Some prosodic and paralinguistic features of speech to young children. In C. E. Snow & C. A. Ferguson (Eds.)Talking to children (pp. 63–88). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Lorenz, K. Z. (1943). Die angeborenen Formen moglicher Erfahrung.Zeitschrift Fur Tierpsychologie, 5 235–409.Google Scholar
  14. McArthur, L. Z., & Baron, R. M. (1983). Toward an ecological theory of social perception.Psychological Review, 90 215–238.Google Scholar
  15. Rubin, K. H., & Brown, I. D. (1975). A life-span look at person perception and its relationship to communicative interaction.Journal of Gerontology, 30 461–468.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Ryan, E. B., Bourhis, R. Y., & Knops, U. (1991). Evaluative perceptions of patronizing speech addressed to elders.Psychology and Aging, 6 442–450.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Ryan, E. B., Giles, H., Bartolucci, G., & Henwood, K. (1986). Psycholinguistic and social psychological components of communication by and with the elderly.Language and Communication, 6 1–24.Google Scholar
  18. Shatz, M., & Gelman, R. (1973). The development of communicative skills.Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 38 (5, Serial No. 152).Google Scholar
  19. Snow, C. E., & Ferguson, C. A. (Eds.). (1977).Talking to children. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Snow, C., Arlman-Rupp, A., Hassing, Y., Jobse, J., Joosten, J., & Vorster, J. (1976). Mothers' speech in three social classes.Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 5 1–20.Google Scholar
  21. Thorndike, E. L., & Lorge, I. (1952).Teacher's word book of 30,000 words. New York: Teachers College Columbia University.Google Scholar
  22. Zebrowitz, L. A., Kendall-Tackett, K., & Fafel, J. (1991). The influence of children's facial maturity on parental expectations and punishments.Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 52 221–238.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Zebrowitz, L. A., & Montepare, J. M. (1992). Impressions of babyfaced males and females across the lifespan.Developmental Psychology, in press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leslie A. Zebrowitz
    • 1
  • Sheila Brownlow
    • 1
  • Karen Olson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyBrandeis UniversityWaltham

Personalised recommendations