British Journal of Developmental Psychology

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Volume 30 Issue 4 (November 2012), Pages 477-603

Early humour production (pages 586-603)

The current studies explored early humour as a complex socio‐cognitive phenomenon by examining 2‐ and 3‐year‐olds’ humour production with their parents. We examined whether children produced novel humour, whether they cued their humour, and the types of humour produced. Forty‐seven parents were interviewed, and videotaped joking with their children. Other parents (N= 113) completed a survey. Parents reported children copy jokes during the first year of life, and produce novel jokes from 2 years. In play sessions, 3‐year‐olds produced mostly novel humorous acts; 2‐year‐olds produced novel and copied humorous acts equally frequently. Parents reported children smile, laugh, and look for a reaction when joking. In play sessions, 2‐ and 3‐year‐olds produced these behaviours more when producing humorous versus non‐humorous acts. In both parent reports and play sessions, they produced novel object‐based (e.g., underwear on head) and conceptual humour (e.g., ‘pig says moo’) and used wrong labels humorously (e.g., calling a cat a dog). Thus, parent report and child behaviour both confirm that young children produce novel humorous acts, and share their humour by smiling, laughing, and looking for a reaction.

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