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Language-based humor development: jokes, puns, riddles

Children learning concerning jokes.
by

Bryan Vinski

on 3 February 2012

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Transcript of Language-based humor development: jokes, puns, riddles

Humor development in children
By: Elli Vamvakitis
Allison Rommel
Trish Lipinski
Bryan Vinski
At times we overlook humor as an important element in teaching. Humor seems to be helpful rather than distracting when teaching children.
Some teachers associate humor and its use with non-productivity. They may assume that humor is distracting.
Humor is native and can be considered as innate as a human reaction and social skill such as greeting and conversing with friends. Basically, humor is an element of pragmatics.
Loomax and Moosavi (1998) in an article on the use of humour in a university statistics class pointed out that anecdotal evidence in past studies consistently suggests that humour is an extremely effective tool in education.
These same studies suggest that the use of humour in the classroom reduces tension, improves classroom climate, increases enjoyment, increases student-teacher rapport and even facilitates learning.
This suggests humor may also be an important tool for acquiring a second language.
BUILDING BLOCKS OF HUMOR
At 5 weeks old babies show their first steps towards humor because they begin smiling in response to their parents cooing and silly facial expressions
At 4 months: laughing shows that a child is enjoying his/herself (this is not necessarily expressing humor but it is a building block)
4 STAGES OF HUMOR DEVELOPMENT
STAGE 1: Incongruous Actions Towards Objects (toddlers)
Humor development starts when a child pretend plays with objects. They use new objects to replace already familiar objects. They are in a sense assimilating a new object into a known category where the new object doesn’t necessarily fit.
Examples of how a child may joke:
They may use a cup as a hat or a banana as a telephone
STAGE 2: Incongruous Labeling of Objects and Events (2-3 years old)
Children then begin to develop language skills, which help them produce humor. Labeling objects in the previous stage is what helps them move on to this stage of humor. In this stage They still assimilate an object or event into a group that is appropriate for a different object or event; however, now they can express this incongruence by using language (labeling) instead of demonstrations.
Example:
A child may call their nose an ear or their ear a nose.
STAGE 3: Conceptual Incongruity (3-6 years old)
In this stage there is a dramatic change in the form of humor, which emerges due to the fact that children begin to develop conceptual, thought. At age 3 children recognizes classes of objects or events and understand that these objects or events have different features. Humor is generated when one child’s thoughts become more complex and abstract. This acquisition of abstraction is conveyed by their language usage.
(During this stage the child Demonstrates their knowledge of language and society)
Joke: What did the baby ghost say to the bully ghost?
Answer: Leave me alone or I’ll tell your mummy!

This shows that the child understands that" mummy" sounds like "mommy" and it is not just a random association. This demonstrates their knowledge of phonology and language.
STAGE 4: Humor in Multiple Meanings (6-7 years old)
Change in a child’s cognition adds to their ability to participate in and understand humor. At this age children are able to reverse the sequence of events, to look at the features of objects and the relationship between events. They are able to restructure and explain events and objects. They realize that there are multiple or ambiguous meanings to words and actions. At 7 years old they can understand this ambiguity and hold onto this meaning to make or understand a joke.
Example:
Joke:What is the best month for a parade?
Answer: March

Here the child understands how “March” is both a month and a verb that takes place during a parade. This shows that the child has mastered the idea that this word has several meanings.
INCONGRUENCE THEORY
Children believe that something is funny when a real world event doesn’t match up with your mental model of what should happen.

For example, in stage 1 a child may use a cup as a hat. In society a cup is not used as an accessory but rather something you drink out of. Putting the cup on one's head is incongruent to what society expects.
Questions about the incongruency theory???

i. Does deviation from the norm really make something funny?

ii. How does socioeconomic status reflect what makes a joke funny?
Experiment 1: Understanding the Incongruence theory
Purpose:
Understand what makes a child think that something is funny.
Subjects: 150 Children (1/2 boys, 1/2 girls)
2 year olds (30)
3 year olds (60)
4 year olds (60)
Location: Cali, Columbia
Socioeconomic status: middle to upper middle class
Procedure
i. The subject was familiarized to make sure they knew what the word “funny” meant. They were shown TV shows, books and newspapers and when the experimenter knew he/she understood what "funny" meant they continued with the experiment.
The subject was shown an image. (Superman flying with nothing on his back and nothing in his hands)
They were given 3 transparencies to superimpose on the original picture
Transparency 1: created a neutral alternative that showed superman holding a bat. this image does not suggest a conflict.
Transparency 2: created a congruent alternative (superman would have a cape on his back) this image with the transparency completes the image and demonstrates the norm
Transparency 3: creates an incongruent alternative (superman has wings on his back) the wings adds an element of conflict because it deviates from the norm, superman does not have wings
After the child played around with adding transparencies and taking them off, they were asked “which image was the funniest?” or “which image made them laugh the most?”
Results
The children chose the incongruent alternative norm among the other alternatives. The verbal responses by the children show us that when an image is incongruent or differs from the norm the child thinks it is funny.
Answers to our questions
Does deviation from the norm really make something funny?
When something is introduced that does not make sense or is hard for the child to understand (like superman with wings like a bird) their reaction seems to be to think it is funny.
How does socioeconomic status reflect what makes a joke funny?
All of these children were from middle class socioeconomic status. Though this experiment does not compare socioeconomic statuses we can conclude that understanding a joke requires that the child have certain cultural and social knowledge (in this experiment it would be knowing who superman is). From this knowledge the subject understands what is funny about a joke so in essence a child’s society deems what is a norm and therefore what is funny. The higher the socioeconomic status the more exposure a child has to different things in society and the more they are capable of understanding a joke.
When something is introduced that does not make sense or is hard for the child to understand (like superman with wings like a bird) their reaction seems to be to think it is funny.
All of these children were from middle class socioeconomic status. Though this experiment does not compare socioeconomic statuses, we can conclude that understanding a joke requires that the child have certain cultural and social knowledge (in this experiment it would be knowing who superman is). From this knowledge the subject understands what is funny about a joke; a child’s society deems what is a norm and therefore what is funny. The higher the socioeconomic status the more exposure a child has to different things in society and the more they are capable of understanding a joke.
AUTISTIC CHILDREN AND HUMOR
In the 2004 the “Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders” examined literature and arrived at an interesting suggestion: some people with autism and Asperger syndrome do understand humor- but at a mathematical level. Research has well established that many people with Autism and Asperger syndrome have excellent mathematical reasoning skills and these skills might cross over into the logical formulaic patterns of humor. Intended humor/jokes are understood, by the child, that they don’t make sense or are incongruent but, a child with a developmental disorder does not necessarily understand why this makes it humorous.
QUIZ TIME!
Please specify what stage you think the joke is from.
"You can tune a guitar, but you can't tuna fish"!
Stage 4
Doctor: How did you get here so fast?
Child: flu
Stage 4
Parent: Knock Knock
Child: Who’s there?
Parent: Banana
Child: Banana who?
Parent: Knock Knock
Child: Who’s there?
Parent: Banana
Child: Banana who?
Parent: Knock Knock
Child: Who’s there?
Parent: Orange
Child: Orange who?
Parent: Orange you glad I didn’t say banana.
Stage 3
Parent: What type of noise does Lassie the cow make?
Child: Ruff ruff
Stage 2
Conclusions (interesting findings about humor that we can across while researching humor:
SOURCES
a. Young Children’s Explanation of Pictorial Humor
Early Childhood Education Journal, Vol. 33, No. 6, June 2006
b. The joke’s in you
American Physiological Association
c. Graphic Jokes and children’s mind: An unusual way to approach children’s representational activity.
www. cognitiva.univalle.edu.com
When learning a second language students are already timid enough to participate orally because, as we know, after puberty it is difficult to speak like a native. By adding humor to the classroom (especially in a second language classroom) a student is more willing to participate due to the positive atmosphere that humor creates.
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