Humor, abstraction, and disbelief

Elena Hoicka, Sarah Jutsum, Merideth Gattis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


We investigated humor as a context for learning about abstraction and disbelief. More specifically, we investigated how parents support humor understanding during book sharing with their toddlers. In Study 1, a corpus analysis revealed that in books aimed at 1‐to 2‐year‐olds, humor is found more often than other forms of doing the wrong thing including mistakes, pretense, lying, false beliefs, and metaphors. In Study 2, 20 parents read a book containing humorous and non‐humorous pages to their 19‐to 26‐month‐olds. Parents used a significantly higher percentage of high abstraction extra‐textual utterances (ETUs) when reading the humorous pages. In Study 3, 41 parents read either a humorous or non‐humorous book to their 18‐to 24‐month‐olds. Parents reading the humorous book made significantly more ETUs coded for a specific form of high abstraction: those encouraging disbelief of prior utterances. Sharing humorous books thus increases toddlers' exposure to high abstraction and belief‐based language.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)985-1002
JournalCognitive Science
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2008

Structured keywords

  • SoE Centre for Psychological Approaches for Studying Education


Dive into the research topics of 'Humor, abstraction, and disbelief'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this