About our project

In this study, we want to investigate the universality of lullabies and, importantly, we want to see if the way we sing to our children to soothe and relax them overlaps with how we do so through touch and gentle stroking. Our key question is whether the speed of gentle stroking aligns with the tempo of lullabies regardless of language and culture?

The question about the origins of musical behaviour and its universality in human societies has troubled scientists since Darwin’s theory of evolution emerged in the 19th century. There are multiple theories that focus on the evolutionary background of musical behaviour that try to explain its emergence through mechanisms of group selection like stronger social cohesion or sexual selection. Not one explanation seems sufficient to solve this conundrum, but one interesting line of thinking acknowledges the possibility of lullabies being sung for the purpose of assuring the baby that the mother is present, just like through human touch. This could have improved the well-being of babies through reducing fear, stress and other harmful effects when the caregiver is not able to be physically skin-to-skin with the baby (think about the modern parent multitasking). These relaxing, stress-reducing benefits are also products of gentle touch which depend on the activation of a special set of nerves in the skin by a specific speed of stroking. Modern research of the universal soothing effect of lullabies, regardless of language, suggest an innate preference for some temporal features of lullabies and potentially a biological mechanism that overlaps with stroking speed. 

By collecting data of lullabies from people, cultures and languages all over the world, we want to test whether the tempo of lullabies aligns cross-culturally with stroking speed. With your help, we could provide the first evidence of a strong biological connection and function of lullabies that underpins their cultural universality.

If you are interested in hearing more about our research or have questions or concerns, please contact us on: merle.fairhurst@unibw.de


Be part of it!

WHY? Help us learn about how we use music to interact with others

WHAT? You will be asked to sing or hum into your microphone a lullaby, a love song and one other song you might listen to, to help you to fall asleep. We will then ask you a few (optional) questions about yourself.

HOW LONG? About 5 minutes

PRIVACY NOTICE: Participation in this study is entirely voluntary and you are free to withdraw at any given moment without further consequences. All data collected and all results will only be analyzed at the group level for publications in scientific journals. The study has been reviewed for compliance with ethical research standards and approved by the Bundeswehr University. Only investigators directly involved with the study will have access to the collected data, which will be treated as strictly confidential and handled in accordance with the GDPR. To our knowledge, there are no risks involved in participating in this task. If you are interested in hearing more about our research or have questions or concerns, please contact us on: merle.fairhurst@unibw.de

Take part in the study