Social looking, social referencing and humor perception in 6-and 12-month-old infants


Social referencing refers to infants’ use of caregivers as emotional referents in ambiguous situations (Walden, 1993). Studies of social referencing typically require ambulation, thereby over-looking younger, non-ambulatory infants (i.e., ≤8-months) and resulting in a widespread assumption that young infants do not employ this strategy. Using a novel approach that does not require mobility, we found that when parents provided unsolicited affective cues during an ambiguous-absurd (i.e., humorous) event, 6-month-olds employ one component of social referencing, social looking Additionally, 6-month-olds who did not laugh at the event were significantly more likely to look toward parents than their counterparts who found the event funny. Sequential analyses revealed that, following a reference to a smiling parent, 6-month olds were more likely to smile at the parent, but by 12 months were more likely to smile at the event suggesting that older infants are influenced by parental affect in humorous situations. The developmental implications of these findings are discussed, as well as the usefulness of studying humor for understanding important developmental phenomena.

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Infant Behavior and Development



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