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Why do some couples use baby talk to communicate with each other?

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

All right. You may know that some couples - many in fact - use baby talk.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: I missed you all day.

NOEL KING, HOST:

Oh, God.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: My little baby cutie (ph).

KING: Now we know exactly how common this really is. A study from the Kinsey Institute found that two-thirds of couples use baby talk with each other. Now, to be clear, this is when they are talking to one another, not talking to babies.

INSKEEP: Not even talking to their dogs.

KING: (Laughter).

INSKEEP: Of course, people do baby talk with their dogs, but this is with other adults. Ramesh Kaipa at Oklahoma State University says using high-pitched chatter and silly pet names serves our emotional needs.

RAMESH KAIPA: Humans - as we are - we definitely crave for attention and affection from our loved ones. And this is a very simple, yet efficient way that helps us display our attention to people who are special to us.

INSKEEP: He says this sort of attention creates stronger relationships.

KAIPA: Research in social psychology has shown that use of idiosyncratic names, like sweet pea, honey or moon pie, among married couples result in higher marital satisfaction.

KING: This may explain why baby talk cuts across cultures.

KAIPA: Regardless of our cultural background - the language, ethnicity, race - humans are united by this one particular trait where we use this communicative feature to express our attention.

INSKEEP: So if you ever catch your voice shifting up an octave or hear yourself saying, good morning, honey pie, when talking to your partner, don't be embarrassed. It's good for you.

(SOUNDBITE OF EL TEN ELEVEN'S "MARRIAGE IS THE NEW GOING STEADY")

INSKEEP: (Imitating baby voice) This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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