University of Leicester
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Some aspects of the social facilitation of "humorous laughter" in children.

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posted on 2015-11-19, 08:57 authored by A. J. Chapman
Seven experiments were conducted in a mobile laboratory on location in schools. Seven year-old children were tested alone, or in like-sex dyads or triads which were based on the audience and coation paradigms of social facilitation. Subjects listened, once only, to tape-recorded humorous material on headphones. They were unaware that (a) they were participating in a laughter experiment; (b) their nine year-old companions (after experiment one) were models complying with pre-recorded directions; (c) they were observed through a screen. In naturalistic conditions, coactors lauded and smiled more than audience condition subjects who laughed and smiled more than alone subjects. The companion's behaviour was varied systematically in subsequent experiments. The principal statistically significant findings were: (i) Increments in subjects' laughter, smiling and "looking" resulted from increments in coactors' laughter and "mirth" (laughter plus smiling). (ii) Subjects smiled more as coactors smiled and "looked" more. (iii) Increments in audiences' "mirth" led to an inverted-U effect for subjects' laughter but to regular increases in "looking". (iv) Subjects looked more at coactors than audiences; they looked most at coactors who looked most at them. (v) Even when audiences and coactors were totally unresponsive, subjects generally laughed and smiled more than alone subjects. (vi) The more "shared" coaction conditions, as defined firstly by seating arrangements and then by interaction between pairs of companions, were associated with higher response levels. (vii) Girls sometimes smiled more than boys. (viii) Humour-ratings were often, but not always, related to overt expressive behaviours. It was found convenient in analyzing results to divide facilitative factors into "first order" and "second order" categories, and to develop the interrelated concepts of "psychological presence" and "cognitive sharing". Other mechanisms were considered briefly. The concept of "mirth" and the distinction between "social" and "mirthful" smiling were discussed. The thesis includes reviews of the social facilitation and the humour and laughter literatures.


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University of Leicester

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  • Doctoral

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  • PhD



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