Babies take a month to develop a sense of humour, study suggests

Study aimed to examine ‘how humour may help young children function cognitively’, said researchers

Olivia Petter
Monday 29 November 2021 12:04

New research has found that babies don’t develop a sense of humour until they are around one month old.

According to a global study of roughly 700 children, published in the journal Behaviour Research Methods, the earliest time that babies can appreciate humour is at four weeks, while roughly half of newborns start to find things funny at two months old.

The research, conducted by a team at the University of Bristol, found that babies can appreciate various forms of physical, visual and auditory humour through play, with activities like peekaboo, tickling, misusing objects, pulling funny faces and speaking in strange voices.

The study also found that babies under the age of one took pleasure in noticing a reaction from other people, like seeing someone getting scared.

The researchers also looked at what two and three-year-olds found funny, observing that the former category enjoyed “nonsense humour”, for example phrases such as “dogs say moo”.

Meanwhile, three-year-olds enjoyed puns, tricks and rude words.

Researchers identified that socialisation is key for children to develop a sense of humour, which they also noted can help improve their other cognitive skills, such as imagination.

Dr Elena Hoicka, associate professor at the university, told The Times: “Our results highlight that humour is a complex, developing process in the first four years of life.

“Given its universality and importance in so many aspects of children’s and adults’ lives, it is important that we develop tools to determine how humour first develops so that we can further understand not only the emergence of humour itself, but how humour may help young children function cognitively, socially, and in terms of mental health.

“The Early Humour Survey addresses an important gap of when different types of humour develop.

“It has the potential, with more research, to be used as a diagnostic tool in early development in terms of developmental differences, and to help inform early-years educators and the UK’s national curriculum for 0-5 years.”

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