Lindsey sent me this remarkable video of her three month old son Dominic laughing at his daddy ripping paper. As far as I know, he’s the youngest baby ever to find this amusing. Well, at first he finds it rather shocking but then he has a good old chuckle. This is rather amazing because Dominic is much, much younger than any other babies who find this amusing. Micah, the baby that started the craze was 8 months old. Lily, a previous contributor to this project was 5 months. Dominic is almost half her age, he has probably only just started laughing.
This certainly challenges my ideas about why babies might find this funny. My initial thoughts was that babies were surprised that a solid object the paper could be broken into pieces. Researcher Rene Baillargeon has found some evidence that babies as young as three months have some sense of ‘naïve physics‘. They seem to understand that objects are solid and things fall to the ground. But maybe it is simpler than that? Perhaps, the babies just think the sound is funny. Certainly, my results so far suggest that babies this young have a very simple sense of humour that’s all about physical sensations, above all else they like tickling, raspberries and other silly noises. Maybe, ripping paper just sounds funny? Maybe it is just that mummy and daddy are funny whenever they do something new and unexpected? In baby science we always have to consider the simple explanations, because we mustn’t forget how new, strange and overwhelming the world is in those first few months.
And, with your help, maybe we can test this theory. Perhaps you could try ripping up things that don’t make the same noise (slices of bread or sliver foil perhaps?) Maybe you could try ripping the paper behind your baby’s back so they can hear the noise but not see the paper. Please, send us your experiments.
Thanks again to Dominic, Lindsey and Anthony for this lovely surprise.