Laughing matters: Infant humor in the context of parental affect.

Academic Article


  • Smiling and laughing appear very early during the first year of life, but little is known about how infants come to appraise a stimulus as humorous. This short-term longitudinal study explored infant humor perception from 5 to 7 months of age as a function of parental affect during an absurd event. Using a within-participants design, parents alternated smiling/laughing with emotional neutrality while acting absurdly toward their infants. Group comparisons showed that infants (N = 37) at all ages smiled at the event regardless of parental affect but did so significantly longer at 5 and 6 months, and more often and sooner at 7 months, when parents provided humor cues. Similarly, sequential analyses revealed that after gazing at the event, 7-month-olds were more likely to smile at it only when parents provided humor cues and were comparatively more likely to look away when parents were neutral. Thus, starting at 5 months of age, parental affect influenced infants' affect toward an absurd event, an effect that was magnified at 7 months. These results are discussed in the context of emotional contagion, regulation, and the emergence of social referencing.
  • Authors

  • Mireault, Gina C
  • Crockenberg, Susan C
  • Sparrow, John
  • Cousineau, Kassandra
  • Pettinato, Christine
  • Woodard, Kelly
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • August 2015
  • Keywords

  • Affect
  • Cues
  • Emotional development
  • Facial Expression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Behavior
  • Infant humor
  • Laughter
  • Male
  • Parents
  • Positive affect
  • Smiling
  • Social cognition
  • Social referencing
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 30
  • End Page

  • 41
  • Volume

  • 136