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Scientists capture humour’s earliest emergence

Press release issued: 22 November 2021

Young children's ability to laugh and make jokes has been mapped by age for the first time using data from a new study involving nearly 700 children from birth to four years of age, from around the world. The findings, led by University of Bristol researchers and published in Behavior Research Methods, identifies the earliest age humour emerges and how it typically builds in the first years of life.

Researchers from Bristol’s School of Education sought to determine what types of humour are present in early development and the ages at which different types of humour emerge. The team created the 20-question Early Humour Survey (EHS) and asked the parents of 671 children aged 0 to 47 months from the UK, US, Australia, and Canada, to complete the five-minute survey about their child’s humour development.

The team found the earliest reported age that some children appreciated humour was one month, with an estimated 50% of children appreciating humour by two months, and 50% producing humour by 11 months. The team also show that once children produced humour, they produced it often, with half of children having joked in the last three hours.

Read the full University of Bristol press release

Further information


The Early Humor Survey (EHS): a reliable parent-report measure of humor development for 1- to 47-month-olds’ by Elena Hoicka et al in Behavior Research Methods [open access]

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