Thursday 20 October 2016

The Happy Song

Music psychology research at Goldsmiths, University of London has led to concrete results:  thefirst song scientifically tested to make babies happy.”  While of course nothing is guaranteed -- for instance if your child is miserably teething, it’s entirely possible that nothing will make him happy -- thousands of parents gave their input as to the sounds that make their babies happy, and then 56 children were tested on their responses to different versions of the song.

Babies cannot tell us in words whether they like a piece of music, but scientists were able to gauge their reactions based on heart rate, facial expressions, and the sounds and movements the babies made while listening to the music.  One of the responses that was not measured was brain activity, maybe because hooking a baby up for an EEG is a big effort, and maybe because there aren’t well-validated EEG signals of infant happiness to compare with. 

But on the same day that “The Happy Song” showed up in my news feed, I also saw this post:  The only way an algorithm can tell if you really like a song is by scanning your brain.” It reports on a small-scale mobile EEG system designed to assess how well people like a piece of music – hook it up to your computer and you would never need to hit “like” again.  It would be interesting to take a mini-EEG system like this, test babies’ responses to the Happy Song, correlate the EEG responses with the physiological and behavioural responses, and then have a neurological-based system to test what music the babies like.  But then again, babies’ smiles and laughter are pretty good indicators too.

You can listen to The Happy Song on Youtube (and below).  More details at