This song is scientifically designed to make babies happy

The perfect lullaby, according to child psychologists and Grammy-winner Imogen Heap. Image: BETC

Rosamond Hutt, Formative Content


It’s billed as the first composition scientifically tested to make babies happy.

With lyrics like “beep beep in the car”, set to an upbeat major key melody and with sounds that parents say make their babies cheerful, The Happy Song contains all the elements that research suggests will put a smile on little ones’ faces.

The song was commissioned by baby and toddler milk brand Cow & Gate (C&G) and advertising agency BETC for the C&G Baby Club online community. They asked more than 1,000 parents to name the noises that made their babies happy. The most popular were the word “boo”, a sneeze, kissing sounds and animal noises.

Using these sounds, Grammy award-winner Imogen Heap composed four tracks exploring different tempos, chord patterns, pitches, rhythms and musical devices, with input from child and music psychologists Caspar Addyman and Lauren Stewart from Goldsmiths at the University of London.

Addyman and Stewart played the tunes to more than 50 babies aged six months to two years old at the university’s InfantLab. And with help from music consultancy Felt Music, they monitored reactions including movements, facial expressions, heart rate and vocalizations to find out which elements of the songs made the babies happiest.

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Tempos and pitches were raised and lowered and plosives (consonant sounds formed by stopping airflow) were inserted — the psychologists predicted these would get a positive reaction from babies — and after months of testing, a final composition emerged.

Addyman, a developmental psychologist specializing in learning in infancy, led the tests. He said: “In the past, researchers have looked at how noises and music might soothe or distress babies. Rarely has anyone focused on what sounds make babies happy.

“Our unusual team of parents, babies, scientists and the talented Imogen Heap each brought unique elements to the project, resulting in this fun, uplifting track that makes babies smile.”

This video is a behind-the-scenes look at how The Happy Song was made over eight months.


Originally published at www.weforum.org.

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