Parenting Research: Babylaughs

A few years ago, right after the MTV show Jersey Shore had become a certifiable pop culture phenomena, I was sitting around talking about Snooki with a few coworkers.  Their manager stopped by, and when she was heard what we were talking about, she immediately jumped in.  “I watch that show every week with my kids!” she exclaimed.  Now I have to admit, this surprised me.  She was in her mid-50s, and was most certainly not MTVs target audience.  Why did this show about 20 somethings being ridiculous intrigue her so much?  “Well, to be honest, I don’t really care about the show” she said.  “But my son…well it makes him laugh really hard.  He sounds just like he did when he was a little kid. He just giggles right down to his toes.  He’s 24, I haven’t heard him laugh like that in years…I’d sit through anything to hear him do that.  Someday you’ll have kids, you’ll see.  The laugh, you never forget it.”


Now that I have a son of my own, I get it.  At 16 months, my son has only a few dozen words in his repertoire, but to me his laugh conveys everything that is beautiful in this world.  There is almost no goofy action I won’t repeat until I drop if it gets him laughing.  I’ve impersonated Grover (neeeeeeeeeeeear…..faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar) until I was dizzy, played all sorts of hide and surprise games, sang goofy songs, repeated made up words (yuckaluck is the current fav), and done all sorts of other things just to catch some of that coveted baby


I’m not alone in my obsession either: typing “baby laugh” in to YouTube gets 1.4 million video results and the “Baby Laughing at Ripping Paper” video has over 64 million views.  I don’t think many would dispute that the sound of a baby laughing is one of the most universally enjoyable auditory experiences out there.  But does baby laughter convey the same thing that adult laughter does?  Or is there more going on here?  That’s what Casper Addyman, who runs the Baby Laughter project at Birkbeck, University of London and the folks at are trying to find out.  From their blog:

The laughter of tiny babies is not just a phenomenally popular theme for YouTube videos, it is also a fantastic window into the workings of the human brain. You can’t laugh unless you get the joke and neither can your baby. At Birkbeck Babylab we study how babies learn about the world. We believe that studying early laughter in detail will throw new light on the workings of babies’ brains, as well as offering new insights into the uniquely human characteristic that is humour.

The site itself is great for anyone interested in humor and human development.  It’s got a blog where they report on various findings of their research, an archive of videos of babies laughing, and parents with children under 2.5 are invited to take part in their research.  Since I don’t live in England, I took the survey.  You answer questions about your family, when your child started to laugh, what makes them laugh, and what your baby does that makes YOU laugh.  I love the thought that such a sweet and adorable phenomena could have interesting neurological and developmental roots, and was definitely excited to contribute to this research in some small way.  If you meet the criteria, I encourage you to check it out too.  If not, their cache of baby laugh videos is good for what ails you.

What goofy things do/did you do to get your baby to laugh?

Featured Image by ECohen

Image by Daniela Goulart


Bethany is a perpetual student who just won't stop taking classes. She's gone from engineering to psych and family systems to applied statistics, and is really fascinated by how people feel about numbers. She blogs about this over at Graph Paper Diaries, and experimenting with contingency tables at Two Ways to Be Wrong.

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