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. 2016 Sep 20;7:1392.
doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01392. eCollection 2016.

Playing With Expectations: A Contextual View of Humor Development

Free PMC article

Playing With Expectations: A Contextual View of Humor Development

Gabriella Airenti. Front Psychol. .
Free PMC article


In the developmental literature, the idea has been proposed that young children do not understand the specificity of non-literal communicative acts. In this article, I focus on young children's ability to produce and understand different forms of humor. I explore the acquisition of the communicative contexts that enable children to engage in humorous interactions before they possess the capacity to analyze them in the terms afforded by a full-fledged theory of mind. I suggest that different forms of humor share several basic features and that we can construct a continuum from simple to sophisticated forms. In particular, I focus on teasing, a form of humor already present in preverbal infants that is also considered a typical feature of irony. I argue that all forms of humor can be regarded as a type of interaction that I propose to call "playing with expectations."

Keywords: communicative games; humor development; irony; teasing; theory of mind.

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    1. Airenti G. (2010). Is a naturalistic theory of communication possible? Cogn. Syst. Res. 11 165–180. 10.1016/j.cogsys.2009.03.002 - DOI
    1. Airenti G. (2015). Theory of mind: a new perspective on the puzzle of belief ascription. Front. Psychol. 6:1184 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01184 - DOI - PMC - PubMed
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