The Emory Infant and Child Lab is dedicated to assisting in the education of those interested in the field of child development. One of the ways we do this is by providing research assistantships for Emory students. Emory students may register for course credit for their research efforts by registering for college course Psyc 499R. We welcome resumes and applications throughout the year. All registration issues for course 499R are handled by the Psychology Undergraduate Coordinator.
What Can I Expect as a Research Assistant?
As part of your research experience, you can expect to be as fully involved in lab research as you want to be! RAs typically help by recruiting research subjects, assisting with our infant and child studies, coding and entering data, helping with our publications, and participating in lab meetings. In return, we hope to help you in pursuing your individual career goals, especially if you are interested in psychology, child development, or a related field.
For more information, email or call us at (404) 727-6199. Applications are available.
I am interested in understanding how children's sense of humor develops; in particular this research asks whether there is a link between humor and social understanding in development. We are testing children from 3-5 in a situation in which we tell them a story and let them choose among several outcomes, picking the one they find funniest. The outcomes of the story allow the children to play a joke on the story's protagonist and vary in how harmful the joke is to him.
When we see people get hurt often we sympathize with them, but on some occasions we may laugh at them. Much of humor is based upon the pains of others: slapstick, pranks, and ridicule all have a clear victim. What is it about humor that can transform things like pain and embarrassment into something laughable?
This project is trying the answer the question of how empathy and humor are related. The early 20th century philosopher Henri Bergson characterized laughter as an enemy to compassion, saying "laughter has no greater foe than emotion the comic demands something like a momentary anesthesia of the heart" (Bergson, 2008). If Bergson is right, comedy could be akin to immorality, humor accompanying the withdrawal of compassion and sympathy silencing laughter.
I seek to test whether comedy and empathy are at odds by measuring humor in a population for which empathy has not fully developed: children without theory of mind. Our experiment measures 3-5 year olds on their theory of mind development using a five point theory of mind scale (Wellman & Liu, 2004; Wellman et al., 2006). We then test the degree to which the children find the misfortunes of others funny by having them rate the funniness of short vignettes. We hypothesize that when human beings develop theory of mind they enhance their ability to empathize, and with more empathy cease to find certain painful situations funny. When children will have a better understanding of the feelings of others they will think twice before laughing at their misfortunes.
Bergson, H., & Brereton, C. (2008). Laughter: an essay on the meaning of the comic. Rockville, Maryland: Arc Manor.
Wellman, H. M., & Liu, D. (2004). Scaling of Theory of Mind Tasks. Child development, 75(2), 523-541.
Wellman, H. M., Fang, F., Liu, D., Zhu, L., & Liu, G. (2006). Scaling of theory-of-mind understandings in Chinese children. Psychological Science, 17(12), 1075-1081.