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It's Not Absurd: Babies' Sense-of-Humor Begins at Just Six Months

Update Date: Sep 07, 2012 08:56 AM EDT
Babies
Don't be too quick to laugh at bad jokes because new research reveals that we are hardwired to recognize fake laughter.
(Photo : Flickr/darrowassoc)

In video-sharing websites like Youtube, there are plenty of videos of toddlers laughing and giggling at the most unexpected and absurd situations or event.

However, if you thought that babies did not have a sense of humor and laughed without much understanding of what is happening, think again. According to a new study, babies as young as six-months-old observe their parents very keenly to determine if something is funny, and this apparently helps them develop a sense of humor.

Researchers from U.S. studied 30 babies at six-months-old and again at one-year-old. 

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Initially, the babies watched their parent's reaction to two ordinary events in which a researcher read a picture book and showed a small red foam ball to the babies. Later, the ordinary events were changed to absurd events. The researcher bounced the open picture book on her head while she said "Zoop! Zoop!" and then put the foam ball on her nose while she poked at it and said "Beep! Beep!," Medical Xpress reported.

During this odd behavior, the parents were told to either point a finger at the researcher and laugh, or just to stay expressionless. 

It was found that six-month-old babies stared longer at the absurd events but their reactions weren't influenced by their parents' responses. However, the babies did watch their parents closely when they laughed.

When the babies turned one-year-old, they laughed at the absurd events even if their parents did not react to it.

According to researchers, this act of being attentive to absurd events and to people laughing, may be how babies develop a sense of humor which they can exhibit when they're a year old.

"Humor might seem like a frivolous topic, but it provides a vehicle for understanding infant development, in this case the development of social referencing. This study shows that six-month-olds pay attention to 'unsolicited emotional advice' from parents during ambiguous situations that might be funny," study author Gina Mireault, of Johnson State College in Johnson, Vt., said in a society news release.

"Our findings suggest that six-month-olds are starting to see parents as a source of emotional information, and this is likely to be an important step on the way to being able to obtain emotional advice from parents when this is needed, which we know infants do at eight months. By 12 months, infants seem to have had just enough life experience to make up their own minds -- at least about what is absurdly funny," Mireault explained.

The study was presented at a British Psychological Society meeting in Glasgow, Scotland.

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