According to Robert Provine`s research on laughter (americanscientist.org), laughter is a decidedly social signal, not an egocentric expression of emotion. In the absence of stimulating media (television, radio or books), people are about 30 times more likely to laugh when they are in a social situation than when they are alone. Indeed people are more likely to smile or talk to themselves than they are to laugh when they are alone. Aside from the obvious implication that sociality can enhance laughter and perhaps one’s mood, these observations indicate that laughter has a social function.
We somehow laugh at just the right times, without consciously knowing why we do it. Laughter is primarily a social vocalization that binds people together. It is a hidden language that we all speak. The syllables “ha-ha,” “ho-ho” or “hee-hee” are part of the universal human vocabulary, produced and recognized by people of all cultures. Furthermore, laughter is contagious. Psychologytoday.com says that since our laughter is under minimal conscious control, it is spontaneous and relatively uncensored. Contagious laughter is a compelling display of Homo sapiens, a social mammal. It strips away our veneer of culture and challenges the hypothesis that we are in full control of our behaviour.
Why do we laugh? Researchers theorize that there are a few specific reasons for laughing:
– the incongruity theory happens when the element of surprise triggers laugher (something unexpected happens);
– the relief theory in which humour relieves tension caused by fears;
– the superiority theory which happens when a person laughs about misfortunes of others.
If you want to know more about these theories and laugher in general, enjoy this short video from SciShow:
Written by Ana-Maria Gulin