Cardiff Psychologists Study How Toddlers Learn What's a Jokek and What's No Laughing Matter; IMMUNE SYSTEM AND SENSE OF SELF-ESTEEM IS BOOSTED

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), June 20, 2013 | Go to article overview

Cardiff Psychologists Study How Toddlers Learn What's a Jokek and What's No Laughing Matter; IMMUNE SYSTEM AND SENSE OF SELF-ESTEEM IS BOOSTED


Byline: CATHY OWEN cathy.owen@walesonline.co.uk

HAVEA you heard the one about where the fish keep their money? In riverbanks, of course.

Or what do you call a pig who does karate? A pork chop.

These childhood favourites might not be the funniest or most intricate gags, but researchers at a Welsh university have been working to unlock the secrets of just how youngsters develop their sense of humour. u How and when humour develops in children is the basis of the research being carried out by a team of psychologists in the Development@Cardiff department of Cardiff University. y They recently published a paper in the British Journal of Developmental Psychology about how parents tell jokes to their toddlers, and whether toddlers can tell they are joking.

Experts believe it is a beneficial quality to have because a well-developed sense of humour can boost a person's ' immune system, contribute to a more optimistic outlook on life, and increase self-esteem.

In the Cardiff University study, y parents read a funny book to their child, and they recorded their voices with special microphones.

Merideth Gattis, a senior lecturer from the School of Psychology,y said: "WeW found that parents speak dif-fferently when they are joking, and the study allowed us to identify specific acoustic cues to humour. r "YouY could say it was our a-ha-ha moment!" For the past 10 years, Development@Cardiff has been inviting babies, children and their families to Cardiff University to participate in their studies on early learning.

Another area they have been looking at is when humour develops in children.

Dr Gattis and her team found that at around 18 months children have some ability to know the difference between a joke and a mistake, as long as joke actions are very different from normal actions.

"For example, if the researcher held a toy animal on top of their heads and giggled, most 19 to 24-month-olds realised it was a joke action and copied it," she explains.

"By comparison, if a researcher tried to write with the wrong end of the pen and was disappointed, most children realised it was a mistake, and corrected it."

When jokes and mistakes were both similar to normal actions, and signalled as a joke with a giggle or as a mistake with disappointment, only older children between 25 and 36 months were able to show they understood the difference, by copying jokes and correcting mistakes.

"Our research shows that a critical age for understanding humour is around the second birthday. Ay round two years the child begins to understand when you mean to do something that is entirely wrong, but fuf n u ny. "This finding helps us build an accurate picture of how children develop an understanding of people's ' minds."

The research also suggests that children learn humour by copying other people.

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Cardiff Psychologists Study How Toddlers Learn What's a Jokek and What's No Laughing Matter; IMMUNE SYSTEM AND SENSE OF SELF-ESTEEM IS BOOSTED
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