[eli5] Why do babies laugh? Are they capable of finding things funny at such an early stage?



[eli5] Why do babies laugh? Are they capable of finding things funny at such an early stage?

In: Other

Yes. Their understanding is simple, but they have a sense of humor. My little one was really into when I stuck out my tongue and made faces for about the first 10-months. After that, I had to start falling down or dropping things.

Being a dad is 85% literally clowning around.

One of the reasons people laugh is when our expectations have been violated (usually in a benign way). I imagine a baby’s expectations are violated near constantly. “Yay, mom’s here. Oh shit, mom’s gone forever and all that remains are hands. Mom exists again!”

With laughter it’s important to understand it’s a very deeply seated evolutionary mechanism to form social relationships. You can’t force true laughter, and you laugh alone much less than in groups (approximately 97% less likely).

Adults usually laugh at things that are amusing. However, babies primarily laugh during social interaction or when experiencing new things. Thus, it is likely to be an evolutionary benefits. The adult is flattered because they think the baby thinks they are funny. The baby laughs in order to illicit attention and learning from adults.

Essentially from an evolutionary perspective they are mimicking adults to increase their own chance of survival.

It depends on what the subject finds funny (usually as a social bonding mechanism). Some people find farts funny and neither them nor babies will understand elaborate forms of humor.

I remember something about laughter being an interrupted fear response. That would explain why peekaboo is funny.

Laughter is an innate response to finding something funny. Finding something funny is frequently caused by subversion of expectations. You expect one thing to happen, and then something different does.

With babies, their expectations are in such flux due to lack of any experience at this whole… life… thang… that it’s quite easy to subvert their expectations. They literally find everything funny. (To an extent.) So, of course they laugh a lot.

I had no idea that babies got erections until I was dating a girl with a baby in my mid thirties…. I have daughters so when I walked in on a diaper change, kid was like 9 months I guess, and she was having a difficult time putting the diaper on because the kid was hard as a rock with his little baby boner and I was shocked. He was laughing and giggling and just happy as I’d ever seen him. I didn’t know they worked like that when we’re that young….

Wow… Didn’t think when I woke up this morning that a reason would present itself to post something about a baby boner on the internets but here we are….

One explanation I read is that humour is when the mind makes new neuro links. When you take two previously unconnected memory or thought patterns and link them, it can trigger either a laugjter/humour response or a hate/disgust response. (This is why dead baby joke can be both funny and horrible)
Babies have very few memory patterns and everything is a new connection, so if they are not uncomfortable (cold, wet, insecure hungry etc) then they are learning and making ne connections.


I heard a theory that laughter comes from a form of crying: the first laughs you can get from a baby are often peekaboo and other surprise games. Surprise and shock early on always elicit crying, but after a few months of development, when there’s a surprise that turns out to be OK, that crying reflex morphs into laughter: the shock that is immediately relieved with a good outcome changes the nature of the crying.

Also, dancing. My daughter was just starting to pull herself up on furniture to stand when a song came on the radio. She instantly started dancing. She couldn’t walk yet and she is bopping up and down to the music.

I think absolutely babies do find things funny. But their idea of funny is maybe different, just anything that is surprising or unexpected, and incongruent with what they think should happen. So they have to be old enough to have experienced some things to be able to know what’s outside of normal (ie- keys jangling and making noise is unexpected and different from most other things they see that don’t make that noise). Adults similarly laugh at a punchline because it is unexpected or incongruent with how we expect things to be, but our experience is broader so we have more subtle jokes.


The same reason we find jokes funny.

The core of jokes is teaching, believe it or not. Jokes and teachings show us something we already know and want to introduce something new we don’t know by pointing out similarities between them. At first we feel confusion, moment before we get it, and then, after figuring out how things we expected and things presented are compatible with one another, we actually feel joy of learning something new. Just as now, if I managed to show you a new perspective of “why are jokes funny”, thought you something new, you’d also smile/smirk or whatever. You’ll be “happy to expand your knowledge”.

That’s why you see children age 4-5, when they start asking so many questions and getting answers, learning new things, they laugh, 200 times a day, 20 times more than average adult.

If your question was about babies, the entire world is new to them. So many knowledge to build, so little time. Evolution wants us to learn, to be able to perfect ourselves, so giving a reward in the form of hormones of happiness is evolution’s carrot (withdrawal of happiness on the other hand is stick).

Same reason why making babies is “fun”, if it wasn’t, we wouldn’t have anything to talk about.

Just KID-ding

Because they HUMAN. Any human baby will surpass a pet cat or dog at day 3. Most people don’t realize what true human communication is until they have or care for a baby…