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Humour production may enhance observational learning of a new tool-use action in 18-month-old infants

Many studies have shown that making children laugh enhances certain cognitive capacities such as attention, motivation, perception and/or memory, which in turn enhance learning. However, no study thus far has investigated whether laughing has an effect on learning earlier in infancy. The goal of this study was to see whether using humour with young infants in a demonstration of a complex tool-use task can enhance their learning. Fifty-three 18-month-old infants participated in this study and were included either in a humorous or a control demonstration group. In both groups infants observed an adult using a tool to retrieve an out-of-reach toy. What differed between groups was that in the humorous demonstration group, instead of playing with the toy, the adult threw it on the floor immediately after retrieval. The results show that infants who laughed at the demonstration in the humorous demonstration group reproduced significantly more frequent target actions than infants who did not laugh and those in the control group. This effect is discussed with regard to individual differences in terms of temperament and social capacities as well as positive emotion and dopamine release.