It is during this time in a child’s life that they begin to closely watch their parent’s expressions. This is when they start to understand how to interpret when something is funny.
The study was conducted in the U.S. where researchers studied a group of 30 babies in their own homes on two separate occasions. The first occasion was when the babies were 6 months old and the second was when they were one year old.
The babies were studied initially while they watched their parents react to two ordinary events and later to two unordinary events. For the ordinary event the researcher read a picture book and showed a red ball to the babies. For the unordinary event the researcher bounced the picture book on her head and put the red ball on her nose.
When the unordinary event occurred the parents were told to either point and laugh at the researcher or to stare without making an expression.
At 6 months of age, during the absurd events, the babies watched their parents closely as they laughed and stared for a longer time than when the normal events took place. However, there was no distinct correlation between the babies’ reactions and their parents’ reactions.
At 1 year of age, when the same events took place, the babies showed they had already developed a sense of humor by laughing when the absurd events took place even when their parents remained expressionless.
Researchers suggest, “The combination of paying close attention to absurd events and to others laughing at those events when they are 6 months old may explain how babies develop the sense of humor they have when they’re a year old”.
The study was presented at the British Psychological Society meeting in Glasgow, Scotland this September where researchers explained how humor is an important vehicle for understanding infant development.
The study revealed that social referencing is a key ingredient to infant development; particularly in relation to emotional advice received by parents.
The author of the study, Gina Mireault of Johnson State College, claims, “Our findings suggest that 6-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 8 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.”