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The Laughing Baby

The extraordinary science behind what makes babies happy and why by Caspar Addyman


The Synopsis

The laughter of tiny babies is endearing, entrancing and infectious. It is powerful enough to reinvigorate even the most weary parent. It is also a fantastic window into what a baby is learning and experiencing. Long before they can talk babies can communicate their experience of the world through laughter and tears. Until now, however, psychologists and parenting experts have largely focused on moments of stress and confusion.

Dr Caspar Addyman is a developmental psychologist who decided to change that. For four years Caspar has run the Baby Laughter project collecting data, videos and anecdotes from parents all over the world. He learned that laughter and smiles are of central importance at the start of life. They define a baby’s cognitive and emotional development. Squeals of joy accompany all of a baby’s little breakthroughs. Laughs and smiles connect them to their nearest and dearest. It is how they reward you for the things they learn from you.

The Laughing Baby is the culmination of Caspar’s research. It is also a story of infancy itself. The most remarkable time when we lay down the foundations for everything that comes after. The book moves chronologically through the first two years of life. Looking at the physical, cognitive and emotional milestones in an infant’s life and the smiles and laughs that accompany them.

Readers will learn that being a baby is a lot like being a scientist: babies are confronted by a mysterious world and they learn by a process of experimentation. For babies, knowledge is its own reward and laughter is the soundtrack of all their little ‘Eurekas’. But the full story is bigger than that. Understanding babies helps us understand ourselves. Babies provide the origin story for our incredible abilities. Along the way, you will learn the world’s oldest joke, why music makes us happy, why babies find dogs funnier than cats and the somewhat gross origins of ticklishness...

This is an optimistic book. It’s joyful. It’s highly educational and hopefully, it will even make you laugh. The book won’t happen without your support so please pledge for your copy now or for one of our fabulous special rewards. Thank you.

The Excerpt

A baby’s first laugh is a magic moment. Parents have no trouble remembering it even years later. Happening anywhere from a few weeks old to 4 or 5 months, those early laugh will very likely be small and subtle, a light and breathy chuckle. A tiny baby cannot coordinate the rapid contractions of the intercostal chest muscles required to laugh properly but the sound is unmistakable nonetheless.

For Aristotle the first time we laugh marks the instant when our soul enters our body and the moment we become truly human. He thought that laughter was what separates us from the animals. He was wrong, of course. Other animals can and do laugh and the boundary between us and other species is a matter of degree, a question of genes and culture. As for the soul, nowadays we would probably call that consciousness and we understand that it dawns slowly.

But a baby’s first laugh is a very special event and one that feels transformative. Sometimes it is a spontaneous sound of wellbeing and satisfaction. I am warm and happy and full of mother’s milk. Sometimes it is a response to something the baby sees, like a shadow waving on the wall. Best of all is when it is the result of something a parent does; returning to the room or planting a ticklish kiss. However small that first ever laugh may be, parents will recognize in it the idea that “a laugh is a smile that burst”. It is the first time that a baby expresses their absolute delight with the world.


The Author

Dr Caspar Addyman is a developmental psychologist who studies how babies learn about the world.

He is a lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London and previously spent a decade working at the world-renowned Birkbeck Babylab. He specializes in the study of learning in the first few years of life and have researched such topics as how we learn our first words, our first abstract concepts and how our sense of time develops. He also builds neural network models, trying to teach computers to learn in the same way as babies. Realizing that his colleagues had missed a trick by ignoring laughter he set up the Baby Laughter project ( Over four years he has surveyed thousands of families all over the world to find out just what makes their babies laugh.

Caspar has undergraduate degrees in Mathematics (Cambridge) and Psychology (London) and a PhD in developmental psychology from Birkbeck. Before moving into academia he worked as chef and then spent 9 years working on financial trading floors. His first job as a trader involved shouting and waving his arm around but he got sacked for being too nice. So he moved behind a computer writing trading software that enabled other people to shout at each other. Falling asleep at his desk a little too often he realised he needed to escape and went to night school to become a baby psychologist. He never looked back. He has previously a written a novel, Help Yourself, about a self-help author who says you don’t need self-help books and a comedian who can’t tell jokes.

Questions & Answers

Just wishing you well - looks like it's going terrifically already. My book has gone up today, wish me luck (Jane Stevenson, Secret Commonwealth, we were at the Unbound seminar together)

Caspar Addyman Caspar Addyman replied:

Thanks Jane. I had a great first week but now the struggle really begins. Good luck to you too. I'm pledging.

Is a misprint that a pledge for Hardback doesn't also come with the ebook too?

Caspar Addyman Caspar Addyman replied:

Hi Andrew, Yes, that is a mistake. The ebook is included with all other editions.

The Rewards

All supporters get their name printed in every edition of the book. All levels include immediate access to the author's shed.

Copy of the ebook, your name in back of the book.
📖 Pledge $15 20 pledges
First edition of the hardback, a copy of the ebook edition, and your name in the back of the book.
📖 Pledge $25 54 pledges
Signed 1st edition hardback, ebook edition and your name in the back of the book
📖 Pledge $45 16 pledges
Read with a friend
2 copies of the first edition hardback (shipped together), ebook edition and 2 names in the back of the book.
📖 Pledge $50 1 pledge
Launch Party
You might think a man with blue hair who studies the secrets of happiness knows how to throw a party. You’d be right. One ticket for the launch party plus everything at the collectable level.
📖 Pledge $65 1 pledge
Launch Party for Two
Two tickets to the launch party, plus 2 copies of the signed 1st edition hardback and the ebook edition.
📖 Pledge $100 2 pledges
Visit the InfantLab
Come for a guided tour of Goldsmiths Infant and discover just how we find out what babies are thinking. Followed by lunch, plus everything at the collectable level.
Caspar will come give a talk to your school or organization about what we can all learn from laughing babies, a signed 1st edition hardback, e- book edition and your name in the back of the book.
📖 Pledge $190 1 pledge
Dinner at Caspar's
Caspar was trained by the same chef who gave Marco Pierre White his first job and once worked for the Savoy in Paris. Three course dinner for two at Caspar’s colourful Brixton flat with plenty of wine and laughter, plus two tickets to the launch party and everything at the collectable level.
📖 Pledge $250 1 pledge
Baby Photoshoot
Artist and photographer Ana Milusheva specialises in natural baby photographs. She will come to your home for 2-hour photoshoot and provide you with expertly shot photos that don’t look staged. Plus 2 tickets to the launch party and everything at the collectable level.
Your name printed in the front of the book thanking you for your contribution, two tickets to the launch party and any one of the above rewards, plus a signed 1st edition paperback and the ebook edition
📖 Pledge $1,250 2 pledges
Corporate Patron
A special full page dedication for your organisation printed in the front of every edition of the book, plus 2 tickets to the launch party and 10 copies of the signed 1st edition hardback.