Your babies #033: Jaxton being tickled

The most popular post on this blog is the one that asks ‘Should we tickle babies?‘ A lot of adults don’t like being tickled and babies can’t easily defend themselves. Perhaps we shouldn’t do it. Well, as this video of 9 month old baby Jaxton shows very clearly, babies really do enjoy being tickled. But they will also let you know once it gets a bit too much for them.

Thank you to Stacie, Jaxton and the rest of their family for sharing their video.

Your Babies #032: 3 month old Callan cries and laughs on demand

In several years of running the Baby Laughter project, I’ve been sent some wonderful and remarkable videos of laughing babies. This video of three month old Callan is one of the best ever. OUr research into baby laughter asks two simple questions; what makes babies laugh and why do they laugh. The answer to the first question is clear. Above all else it is people that make babies laugh. Laughter is first and foremost about social connection. We laugh in company, we laugh to share things.

“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people” – Victor Borge

But why laughter. Well, I think part of the answer comes from seeing that for babies, laughter and tears are two sides of the same coin. They are their first forms of communication. Tears say ‘make this stop’, laughter says ‘please continue’. This is obvious for crying but less so for laughter. But, as the millions upon millions of laughing babies on youtube show us, there is something very compelling about baby laughter too. Babies need to learn about the world and within that, the biggest mystery is other people. Baby laughter captures our attention and makes us give the baby our full attention. It is no coincidence that the most popular thing to make a baby laugh is the game of peek-a-boo. It is pure social interaction, and for a baby, pure learning.

This is something incredibly important to a baby. They need as much human interaction as they can get. And laughter is their way of persuading us to give it to them. And guess what, it makes you laugh too. Laughter serves a very important role for the baby and it is present from very early in life. So to me, although this video is completely remarkable, it is not entirely unexpected.

The video was sent in by his dad, Davide and filmed by his mum Sara. Thanks to Davide, Sara and Callan.

Caspar hosting @RealScientists twitter account all week.

Fans of baby science and laughing babies should subscribe to the RealScientists twitter account. Every week a different scientist takes over to explain their work and show you what it is actually like behind the scenes. This week it’s my turn.

=

I specialise in the study of learning in the first few years of life and have researched such topics as how we learn our first words, our first abstract concepts and how our sense of time develops. I run behavioural studies with infants and sometimes with adults. I also builds neural network models to explain *how* we learn these new skills. My most popular research has involved investigating the role of laughter in early life. I run a website for this, the Baby Laughter Project (http://babylaughter.net). which conducted a global survey of thousands of parents asking what makes their babies laugh. Parents also send in their videos which are used to illustrate aspects of why laughter is much more important than it first appears.

Source: Baby I love your way: Infantologist Caspar Addyman joins Real Scientists | Real Scientists

My talk for Birkbeck Science week 2015

Caspar Addyman Science of Baby Laughter science Week

The surprisingly serious science of laughing babies
Caspar Addyman, Birkbeck Babylab
The laughter of little babies is infectious, enchanting and may play an important role in their early development. Yet it was largely overlooked by science. Caspar conducted a large global survey of new parents to discover what makes their babies laugh (http://babylaughter.net). In this talk Caspar presents the results of his research and shows how it reveals a serious and important purpose to this delightful behaviour.

Update:
There were lots of other great talks in Birkbeck Science week. You can find links to them here. I particularly recommend Katarina Begus’ talk about the importance of curiosity to babies

http://www.bbk.ac.uk/science/about-us/events/science-week

Baby’s best friend..

Many of the videos submitted to the Baby Laughter project suggests that babies find dogs much more funny than cats. But perhaps not this baby…

And does the beagle feel guilty for stealing the baby’s toy or is just trying to get it to play fetch like this optimistic labrador?

More Baby

Baby Laughter survey scientific update

The first results of our global survey were presented at an infancy conference last July. I thought I’d posted them here but it seems I forgot (typical absentminded academic).

Poster presented at International Conference for Infant Studies, Berlin, July 2014

The full academic write up will be even longer time coming, but for now here’s a quick summary. A total of 1300 parents completed the survey from 69 countries.¬†A further 700 started the survey but never finished it (presumably interrupted by their babies.)

Conclusions
  • Babies first smile around 1.5 months and first laugh around 3.5 months. But with some individual variation.
  • Laughter starts social, babies laugh at/with people not things
  • Most things get funnier with age
  • Babies think mummy and daddy are equally funny
  • Parents think boys laugh more than girls
  • Peekaboo is universally¬†popular¬†but tickling most reliable way get a baby to laugh
  • Babies are moral and don’t laugh at other people falling over, so Freud was wrong that child laugh is based on superiority or schadenfreude!

Thanks to everyone that took part.

Baby Laughter survey results [pdf]