Some of the best infant development studies are inspired by parents with great insight and first hand experience with babies and children. One question that I recently received from an expecting parent from London led to many new ideas to test in the laboratory. We often hear parents call their infants by name, repeating the name over and over again. The question is, do babies become bored with their own name and begin to treat it like ‘white noise' or does repeating the infant's name intensify the significance of the name?
The short answer to this question is that we do not know exactly, given that it has not been tested directly in the lab. However, different lines of research help us to address this question. Most likely babies do not become bored hearing their own name as long as the name signals communication. When babies hear their name in the context of "dyadic" or face to face interaction, likely the cue signals something like, "Hey, baby, let's talk!" Given that communication is so important for pre-verbal babies, hearing their name is likely a sound that will capture attention.
It is true that when babies see the same object or event repeatedly, they eventually become bored and habituate to the stimulus. Of course, the same happens when babies hear the same words repeatedly. If the baby repeatedly hears his own name and communication does not follow, he will likely habituate and eventually ignore this word. However, given that babies are so eager to communicate, calling their name in natural social contexts is likely a great way to signal that you want to talk and interact. A baby's name is a unique stimulus and a wonderful, familiar and salient communicative signal.