Baby Laughter project scientific statement.

The Baby Laughter project is run by scientists at the Babylab at Birkbeck College, University of London. We use a range of methods to study how babies learn about the world. This survey is our latest attempt to understand about the remarkable and all important changes that happen in the first few years of life.

Rationale
The Baby Laughter project is a set of online survey for parents of babies and toddlers to see if there are developmental changes in what makes babies laugh at different ages. The aims are two-fold. Firstly to see how laughter changes in the first two years of life and secondly to see if those changes track other milestones in cognitive development.

My hope is that we will find some evidence that babies’ laughter is a good index of what they understand about the world at different ages. Laughter is a strangely neglected topic in developmental psychology (Rothbart, 1973; Nwokah et al 1994; Reddy, 2001; Kawakami et al, 2006). But it is one which could provide interesting new insights into infant cognitive development. We also expect to confirm the findings in the adult literature (Provine, 2000) that most laughter is primarily social in nature, By finding out what situations, people and events babies find most amusing and entertaining at different ages, we hope to provide a new perspective on infants’ social and emotional development.

Participants
The participants will be parents of babies (two years old and under). They will be recruited online via the project website itself (http://babylaughter.net), from the CBCD participant database and via parenting websites and by individual recommendations and social media. We aim to recruit at least 200 participants for each of the two surveys, but ideally many more.

Methods
A set of two online questions for parents asking them about things which make their babies laugh.
Full survey – The causes of infant laughter
9 sections, ~60 questions, 15-30 minutes to complete
Questions about baby and family background, causes of laughter, funny situations, places, times of day, interactions with people. In addition to the questions prepared specifically for this survey, participants can optionally answer a set of standard questions about infant temperament (Very Short Infant Behaviour Questionnaire, Gartstein and Rothbart, 2003)
Very short ‘field report
6 questions, 2-5 minutes to complete
A very short survey asking the parent to describe a single incident of infant laughter.Questions ask for infant age, details of who was present, where and when the event took place and what happened.

Analysis
From the long survey, we hope to discover what toys, games, sensations and interactions cause babies to laugh the most. How early does social laughter start? What are the primary causes of laughter in infancy? Do these change with cognitive development? Is laughter influenced by, family size, socio-economic status, temperament, etc
From the shorter survey, We hope to accumulate evidence in support of the hypothesis that babies laugh most at events and activities for which they are just starting to understand the relevant features of the world. Laughing at falling objects as physical intuition develops, etc.

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