Infant and Child Development

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Volume 21 Issue 4 (July/August 2012), Pages i-ii, 325-441

Humour Perception and Creation between Parents and 3‐ to 6‐month‐old Infants (pages 338-347)

Humour and laughter are universal to the human psychological experience and have serious developmental and evolutionary implications. Despite the early emergence of laughter in infancy, infants have been largely ignored in the humour research and humour has been largely ignored in the infant research. The present study describes the emergence of humour perception and creation in a sample of 20 parent–infant dyads who were followed from ages 3‐to‐ 6 months. The study examined how infants discover that absurd nonverbal behaviour, known as ‘clowning’, is amusing in the context of social engagement with caregivers. Results indicate that parents primarily use clowning when attempting to amuse their infants and pair these behavioural absurdities with affective cues like smiling and laughing. As they got older, infants were more likely to laugh and smile in response to clowning. Infants' ability to create humor via clowning also increased with age, starting with simple shrieks at 3 months to imitating absurd actions by 5 months. These increases are partly potentially explained by accompanying increases in parental smiling, laughing and clowning in response to infant clowning. Future research should employ more diverse samples and experimentally investigate the role of parental affect and social referencing in infants' interpretation of absurd behavior. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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