What makes babies laugh? It sounds like one of the most fun questions a researcher could investigate, but there's a serious scientific reason why Caspar Addyman wants to find out.
He’s not the first to ask this question. Darwin studied laughter in his infant son, and Freud formed a theory that our tendency to laugh originates in a sense of superiority. So we take pleasure at seeing another's suffering - slapstick style pratfalls and accidents being good examples - because it isn’t us.
The great psychologist of human development, Jean Piaget, thought that babies’ laughter could be used to see into their minds. If you laugh, you must 'get the joke' to some degree - a good joke is balanced in between being completely unexpected and confusing and being predictable and boring. Studying when babies laugh might therefore be a great way of gaining insight into how they understand the world, he reasoned. But although he proposed this in the 1940s, this idea remains to be properly tested. Despite the fact that some very famous investigators have studied the topic, it has been neglected by modern psychology.