Babies are born to laugh but learn to cry, says study

Scientists believe that laughing at a good joke or chuckling is instinctive, but sobbing is something we learn to do


Your baby’s cries are not instinctive but something they learnt to do over time, a small Dutch study, published in the New Scientist, has suggested. Laughing however, is something that comes naturally, and if the study’s scientists are right, we’re born to laugh.


You may be wondering why babies cry when they are first born if it isn’t a natural emotion? Well, the researchers believe that your baby is crying because of the shock of being born and a reflex search for oxygen – not because they’re sad.

The small study saw 16 people (half of whom were deaf) making different sounds behind several emotions without using words. When the tapes were played back, the most easily identifiable sound was laughter and sighs of relief made from the deaf volunteers. Because the deaf volunteers had never heard sounds of laughing before, this indicated that it’s something were born knowing how to do.


Knowing how to convey sadness and anger is something that comes with experience over time, say the researchers. “The finding makes sense. Laughter has been described as being more like a different way of breathing than a way of speaking,” said Professor Sophie Scott, from London’s Institute of Neuroscience.

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