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date: 20 September 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Most sensory systems (auditory, tactile, olfactory, gustatory, motor, vestibular, proprioceptive) begin to function long before birth. The fetus is also capable of basic cognition (attention, memory, association, pattern recognition) and sensitive to emotion (biochemical and behavioral correlates). Abilities and behaviors that are based on these sensations, cognitions, and emotions have prenatal origins. Can prenatal psychology explain the origins of music? From about 20 weeks’ gestation, the fetus perceives the internal sounds of the mother’s body and her body movements. These behavioral patterns correlate with changes in hormone concentrations reflecting maternal physical and emotional states. The fetus may connect behavioral stimuli with biochemical stimuli by classical conditioning, motivated by the adaptive value of the mother schema—the baby’s multisensory perception of its mother. This theory can explain why music evokes strong emotions and why infants have adult-like sensitivity to musical structures, although music has no clear survival or reproductive value.

Keywords: prenatal, origin, emotion, fetus, conditioning

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