>> overview research
sense of humour:
an international comparison (2005)
Humour plays a central role in child television programmes
and children's choice of programmes. In 2002/2003, the IZI
conducted a survey on children's and
pre-teens' sense of humour. Children and pre-teens in
Germany were surveyed and observed in a number of ways in
order to investigate the question of what they find funny
in everyday life and television. An Israeli study provided
additional perspectives on children's sense of humour. The
study produced very concrete findings on the subject of "What
makes children laugh?". What emerges very clearly is
that children have a different sense of humour to adults and
that child-TV programme editors also often have incorrect
perceptions of what children actually find funny.
The extent to which these findings apply internationally,
however, remains unanswered. Do children in Israel, South
Africa, Ireland, the USA and Germany find the same things
funny on TV or are there significant cultural differences?
This is the starting point for the co-operative project "Children's
sense of humour: an international comparison ", designed
to investigate quantitatively and qualitatively what children
find funny in selected child-TV material.
The aim of the study is to obtain an international comparison
of elementary-school pupils' assessment of TV humour. In order
to limit the possible comic moments, the study will focus
on humour that
- involves violence (linguistic and physical/slapstick)
- and the gender theme (e.g. gender crossing, disparaging
These categories will be circumscribed
and specified in a preceding content analysis (literature
Groups of 7 to 12 elementary-school pupils (aged 8 to 9 years)
will watch selected programme segments. The latter will be
specifically humour-oriented and have its own self-contained
plot. Each country taking part in the study will compile programme
segments running for 15 min. (± 4 min.) from locally
produced programmes and international child-TV productions
currently shown in that country. The segments will have subtitles
or be in the national language, depending on what is customary
in the country concerned.
The children will watch one 15-minute block at a time. During
viewing, they will use a Fun-O-Meter, i.e. a joystick hooked
up to a laptop and capable of being moved to and from between
a frowney and a smiley to indicate scenes that they find funny.
The data obtained in this way will be statistically edited
and provide indications of similarities and differences in
assessment of humorous moments in TV programmes. In order
to further obtain content-related reasons for assessments
from the children themselves, an approx. 15-minute group discussion
will take place after each block shown.
The study will be conducted together with 4 partners. The
respective national samples are to consist of at least 40
girls and 40 boys. Apart from the 'gender' variable, a cultural
dimension will be included in each country - in Israel, for
example, Jewish and Arab children, in South Africa, for example,
white and coloured children.
The study will be conducted in Germany under the supervision
of Dr. Maya Götz and Ralf Schauer, the latter being also
responsible for project co-ordination as well as collection
and evaluation of the Fun-O-Meter results.
In Israel, the study will be conducted under the supervision
of Prof. Dafna Lemish (Tel Aviv University).
In the USA, Dr. Shalom M. Fisch (MediaKidz Research and Consulting)
and Dr. Bruce Homer (New York University) will be responsible
for collection and evaluation.
In Ireland/UK, the study will be conducted under the supervision
of Prof. Màire Messenger-Davies (University of Ulster).
In South Africa, data collection will take place under the
supervision of Firdoze Bulbulia from the CBFA (Children &
Broadcasting Foundation for Africa).
The results were presented on the occasion of the Prix
Jeunesse 2006 in Munich and were published in TELEVIZION 19/2006/E.