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Last Updated: Monday, 18 April 2005, 12:34 GMT 13:34 UK
Academics ask what makes kids laugh
The Simpsons
The Simpsons has broad appeal for both adults and children
Why do children across the world find the Simpsons funny?

That is just one of the questions being considered by researchers from five countries who are looking into what makes children laugh.

University of Ulster researcher Maire Messenger-Davies is joining academics from Germany, Israel, South Africa and the US in the year-long project.

They have begun to compile "funny" material - primarily from television programmes - which they will show to children aged between eight and 12 from selected schools in each country.

Specialists from the funding body, the Munich-based International Institute for the Study of Youth and Media, will measure their mirth using a "fun-o-meter".

We want to see what humour crosses national boundaries and what is specific to certain countries or cultures
Maire Messenger-Davies
University of Ulster

Afterwards, the children will be asked what they thought and these responses will be analysed.

Professor Messenger-Davies said the project aimed to "determine what children laugh at and whether there are national or cultural differences that influence their sense of humour".

"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.

"We know that children like verbal humour, silly puns and such like, but they also get 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."

The Coleraine-based researcher said they would also explore whether there was a difference in the humour appreciated by boys and girls.

She added: "Programmes like the Simpsons are shown throughout the world and this study will demonstrate if that particular brand of humour is universally appreciated."

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