Advertisement

Humor, Social Laughing, and Pleasure to Function: Three Sources of Laughter That Are Intrinsically Connected in Early Childhood

  • Elly Singer
Chapter
Part of the Educating the Young Child book series (EDYC, volume 15)

Abstract

This chapter is based on a study of laughter in 2-and 3-year old children in Dutch child centers. The most frequent sources of laughter are: laughing because of incongruity; laughing because of pleasure to function; and social laughing to make contact and share experiences. Most laughing occurs in the context of physical play and pretend play with peers. Most episodes of laughter are evoked by multiple sources of laughter. Children laugh because they enjoy physical play (pleasure to function), each other’s company (social laughing) and because of making silly behaviors (incongruity). Early forms of humor in infants seem to be related to excitement because of ‘the expected unexpected’, as in peek-o-boo. In infants fulfilled expectancies can be just as funny as incongruent experiences in older children. Whether an episode is humorous or not depends on the interpretation of the children and the teacher, for instance as ‘wild/unacceptable’ behavior according to the teacher and ‘silly/funny’ behavior according to the children. Incongruity humor is playing with ideas and gives children and teachers the power to change the interpretation of situations from ‘difficult’ or ‘painful’ into shared laughing. Laughter is a good indicator of the pedagogical climate and quality in early childhood education.

References

  1. Adamson, L. B., & Frick, J. E. (2003). The still face: A history of a shared experimental paradigm. Infancy, 4, 451–473.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bergen, D. (2003). Humor, play, and child development. In A. J. Klein (Ed.), Humor in children’s lives (pp. 17–33). Westport, CT: Preager Publishers.Google Scholar
  3. Blurton Jones, N. (Ed.). (1972). Ethological studies of child behavior. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Brennan, M. A. (2005). “They just want to be with us.” Young children: Learning to live the culture. A post-Vygotskian analysis of young children’s enculturation into a childcare setting (PhD theses). Wellington, New Zealand: Victoria University of Wellington.Google Scholar
  5. Burdette, H., & Whitaker, R. (2005). Resurrecting free play in young children looking beyond fitness and fatness to attention, affiliation, and affect. American Medical Association, 159, 46–50.Google Scholar
  6. Corsaro, W. (2011). The sociology of childhood (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Froge Press.Google Scholar
  7. DeZutter, S. (2007). Play as group improvisation: A social semiotic, multimodal perspective on play and literacy. In O. N. Saracho & B. Spodek (Eds.), Contemporary perspectives on social learning in early childhood education (pp. 217–242). Charlotte, NC: IAP.Google Scholar
  8. Fischer, K. W., Shaver, P. R., & Carnochan, P. (1990). How emotions develop and how they organise development. Cognition and Emotion, 4, 81–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Fogel, A., Nelson-Goens, G. C., & Hsu, H. C. (2000). Do different infant smiles reflect different positive emotions? Social Development, 9, 497–520.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hagedoorn, L. M. (2010). Het lachgedrag van kinderen van 2 en 3 jaar. Een observatieonderzoek naar waarom, met wie, en wanneer 2-en 3-jarige kinderen op Nederlandse kinderdagverblijven lachen (Master’s thesis). Utrecht, The Netherlands: University Utrecht.Google Scholar
  11. Hannikainen, M. (2001). Playful actions as a sign of togetherness in day care centres. International Journal of Early Years Education, 9, 125–134.Google Scholar
  12. Hännikäinen, M. (2005). Rules and agreements – and becoming a preschool community of learners. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 13, 97–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Harter, S. (1999). The construction of the self: A developmental perspective. New York, NY: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  14. Huizinga, J. (1955). Homo Ludens. A study of the play-element in culture. Boston, MA: The Beacon Press (first published in 1938).Google Scholar
  15. Juen, B., & Banninger-Huber, E. (1999). Conflict regulation in early mother-child-Dyads. Paper presented at the 8th European Conference on ‘Facial Expression, Measurement and Meaning’, University of the Saarland, Saarbrucken, Germany, September 27–30, 1999.Google Scholar
  16. Lavelli, M., & Fogel, A. (2005). Developmental changes in the relationship between the infant’s attention and emotion during early face-to-face communication: The 2-month transition. Developmental Psychology, 41, 265.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Loizou, E. (2004). Humorous bodies and humorous minds: Humor within the social context of an infant child care setting. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 12, 15–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Loizou, E. (2005a). Humor: A different kind of play. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 13, 97–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Loizou, E. (2005b). Infant humor. The theory of the absurd and the empowerment theory. International Journal of Early Years Education, 13, 43–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Løkken, G. (2000). Tracing the social style of toddler peers. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 44, 163–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Lutkenhaus, P. (1984). Pleasure derived from mastery in three-year olds: Its function for persistence and the influence of maternal behavior. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 7, 343–358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Mahler, M. S., Pine, F., & Bergman, A. (2000). The psychological birth of the human infant symbiosis and individuation. New York, NY: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  23. Malloch, S., & Trevarthen, C. (Eds.). (2009). Communicative musicality. Exploring the basis of human companionship. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  24. McGhee, P. E., & Chapman, A. J. (Eds.). (1980). Children’s humor. Chichester, UK: Wiley.Google Scholar
  25. Mireault, G. C., & Reddy, V. (2016). Humor in infants. Developmental and psychological perspectives. Springer Briefs in Child Development (ebook).Google Scholar
  26. Piaget, J. (1967). Six psychological studies. New York, NY: Vintage.Google Scholar
  27. Piaget, J., & Inhelder, B. (1969). The psychology of the child. London, UK: Routledge & Kegan.Google Scholar
  28. Provine, R. R. (1992). Contagious laughter: Laughter is a sufficient stimulus for laughs and smiles. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, 30, 1–4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Rodriguez, H. (2006). The playful and the serious: An approximation to Huizinga’s Homo Ludens. The International Journal of Computer game Research, 6, 1–16.Google Scholar
  30. Rourou, A., Singer, E., Bekkema, N., & De Haan, D. (2006). Cultural perspectives on peer conflicts in multicultural Dutch child care centres. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 14, 35–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Schaffer, H. R. (1977). Studies of mother-infant interaction. London, UK: Academic.Google Scholar
  32. Singer, D. G., & Singer, J. L. (1992). The house of make-believe. Children’s play and the developing imagination. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Singer, E. (2002). The logic of young children’s (nonverbal) behavior. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 10, 55–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Singer, E. (2013). Play and playfulness, basic features of early childhood education. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 21, 172–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Singer, E., & de Haan, D. (2007). Social life of young children. Co-construction of shared meanings and togetherness, humor, and conflicts in child care centres. In O. N. Saracho & B. Spodek (Eds.), Contemporary perspectives on social learning in early childhood education (pp. 279–303). Charlotte, NC: IAP.Google Scholar
  36. Singer, E., Nederend, M., Penninx, L., Tajik, M., & Boom, J. (2014). The teacher’s role in supporting young children’s level of play engagement. Early Child Development and Care, 184, 1233–1249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Stern, D. N. (2002). The first relationship. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Trevarthen, C. (2011). What young children give to their learning, making education work to sustain a community and its culture. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 19, 173–194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Trevarthen, C., & Aitken, K. J. (2001). Infant intersubjectivity: Research, theory, and clinical applications. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 42, 3–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. van Emde, R. N., Biringer, Z., Clyman, R. B., & Oppenheim, D. (1991). The moral self of infancy: Affective core and procedural knowledge. Developmental Review, 11, 251–270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Van Enter, J. H. J. (2010). Wat doet kinderen lachen? (Master’s thesis). Utrecht, The Netherlands: University of Utrecht.Google Scholar
  42. Vygotsky, L. S. (1987). Thinking and speech. In R. W. Rieber, A. S. Carton, & J. S. Bruner (Eds.), The collected works of L.S. Vygotsky. Vol. 1: Problems of general psychology (pp. 39–285). New York, NY: Plenum Press (Original work published 1934).Google Scholar
  43. Wörmann, V., Holodynski, M., Kärtner, J., & Keller, H. (2014). The emergence of social smiling: The interplay of maternal and infant imitation during the first three months in cross-cultural comparison. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 45, 339–361.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elly Singer
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Utrecht University (retired)UtrechtThe Netherlands
  2. 2.University of Amsterdam (retired)AmsterdamThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations