Recent studies focusing on laughter have revealed similarities between young babies and chimpanzees, and the results could be used to detect developmental issues earlier.
According to Science Daily, University of Amsterdam professor and psychologist Disa Sauter spoke about the topic a few months back at the Acoustical Society of America's 176th Meeting. She studied 44 laughter clips of infants aged three to 18 months. These clips were then analyzed by a group of 102 psychology students who looked into inhaled laughter compared to exhaled. While this seems like a strange thing to look into, a lot goes into a laugh. In fact, they discovered younger babies exhibited a similar inhale and exhale as chimpanzees, while older babies laughed more on an exhale.
"Adult humans sometimes laugh on the inhale but the proportion is markedly different from that of infants' and chimps' laughs. Our results so far suggest that this is a gradual, rather than a sudden, shift," Sauter says.
With all that said, they're still looking into how hard an individual or primate laughs based on the situation. For instance, chimps and young babies laugh for physical reasons while older babies laughter can be caused for social reasons.
Still, Sauter says they are still researching some aspects of this discovery, but they are not ready to say the laughter is linked to any changes in development. Instead, she suggests that perhaps, the change from an inhaling laugh to an exhaling laugh could be linked with speaking. As we learn to talk, we control our speech through exhaling, so our laughs could change depending on that.
Going forward, Sater wants to look into how this research can be applied to studying children with disabilities. More specifically, she wants to see if there is a way to use acoustics to discover disabilities at an earlier age. Babies generally start laughing at about three to four months old, so the chance to use this to discover developmental issues could help parents prepare earlier.
While how similar baby laughter is compared to chimps is interesting for sure, but this information could change lives. Sure, this information is still relatively new, it's exciting to see how the study of laughter can be used going forward. Hopefully, we can put more time and resources into this research to help Sauter continue her research.