Technology Babies have a sense of humor right from the start

Babies have a sense of humor right from the start

From the first months of life, we are endowed with a sense of humor and jokes. Babies also learn better what we try to teach them, when we arouse in them laughter and humor. This is what Mathilde Fontez tells us today, editor-in-chief of the scientific magazine Epsiloon: a very recent discovery on the origin of our joie de vivre in short…

franceinfo: An English team has just shown that humor is present from the start in human beings. From the first month of our life?

Mathilde Fontez: Yes, and the first joke that babies react to, for more than 75% of them, is the joke of the “Hello !” : you know, when you hide your face with your hands, and you suddenly discover it. It all starts like this. Through the simplest, most sensory humour.

Then come the games around grimaces, then the hijacked objects: when you say you’re holding an elephant in your hand, when in fact it’s a mouse – this joke is a hit among 8-month-old children.

And later, around 1 year, it is the transgression of the rules that makes children react: when taboos are broken. The famous humor “pee poo” for example. What this team of psychologists from the University of Bristol shows is the gradual establishment, in waves, of humor during the first four years of child development, and in particular from the first months .

We thought until then that humor came later?

In fact, we didn’t know. Of course, we knew that children laugh very early. That they interact practically from birth. But humor had never really been studied experimentally. Because it’s difficult to conduct this type of study in the laboratory.

And according to Elena Hoicka, who directed this work, because this theme of humor was not considered a serious subject of study. It’s changing. And this researcher wanted to frame the subject, by studying the reactions of children to 20 increasingly complex jokes. And to get around the difficulties of conducting these studies in the lab, she got parents to contribute: 700 parents took part in the game, at home, following the researcher’s protocol.

Is humor therefore becoming a serious subject?

Yes, because specialists are demonstrating its importance in the cognitive development of children. We know these effects in adults: humor is at the heart of social ties, it focuses attention, it curbs stress, it increases creativity. Well, this also applies to children.

It is even one of the secrets of their learning: a test which was carried out in France in Nanterre, for example, showed that when you make a baby laugh by teaching him a new task, he memorizes it much better than when he Do not laugh.

Other studies are underway to clarify the mechanisms involved – there is the idea that laughter activates neurological reward circuits. In short, our instinct pushes us to use humor to interact with children. The answer of science is that he is right…

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