By Ian Graham, PA
Academics across the globe have been given funding to try to find out what makes children laugh, it was revealed today.
A professor from the University of Ulster is teaming up with counterparts in the US, Germany, Israel and South Africa to see what tickles children?s funny bones.
One of the tests involved will examine whether the Simpsons make kids in all five countries chuckle.
Professor Maire Messenger-Davies, based at the University of Ulster?s Coleraine campus, said: ?The purpose is to determine what children laugh at and whether there are national or cultural differences that influence their sense of humour.?
The year-long research project is being funded by IZI ? the serious sounding International Institute for the Study of Youth and Media, based in Munich.
Initially the researchers are compiling samples of humorous material ? mainly television programmes, both live and animated ? from each of the countries under the microscope.
These will be shown to audiences of eight to 12-year-olds in selected schools in each country and specialists from IZI will measure the responses using a ?Fun-o-Meter? ? a device to gauge the giggle quotient.
Afterwards the children will be invited to discuss their reactions to what they have viewed and the results will be analysed.
Professor Messenger-Davies said: ?English language programmes are widely seen around the world, but children in the UK, Ireland and the US are seldom exposed to programmes from countries like Germany, Israel or South Africa.?
She said they knew children liked verbal humour, silly puns and also got a laugh from action material such as people falling over.
?We want to see what humour crosses national boundaries and what is specific to certain countries or cultures.
?We will also be exploring if there is a difference in the humour appreciated by boys and girls,? she added.
Programmes like the Simpsons were shown throughout the world, but the study would determine whether its particular brand of humour was universally appreciated, said the professor.
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