Why and When We Laugh

Disclaimer: Results are not guaranteed*** and may vary from person to person***.

A person laughs because something is funny. Right? Well, as a matter of fact, that might have nothing to do with it. Whether or not a person laughs depends not on the strength of a stand-up comic, but instead on other factors. Have you ever wondered why you laugh? Let’s take a peek at someof the research in this area.

It’s been a mystery for literally thousands of years. But even the greatest minds—Aristotle, Plato, Freud, and others—never  curately diagnosed laughter, because they mistakenly linked it to humor.

But scientists are beginning to dawn on a realization:though a solid episode of “The Simpsons” may make you break into hysterics a few times, the act of laughing is not really connected to humor at all. Laughter is an instinct. It’s how we survive socially. (And that actually makes a lot of sense.) Professor Robert

Provine chronicled some of his research in a book , published seven years ago, called “Laughter”. He started by having people watch “Saturday Night Live” and found that it generated few laughs.

But when he decided to venture out in public, on sidewalks and such, he used observation to record “laugh episodes”. About nine out of every 10 times someone laughed, it wasn’t at a joke but at relatively mundane phrases such as “I know” or “I’ll see you later”.

Those aren’t funny! He determined that the vast majority of laughter is in no way brought on by humor. As a matter of fact, a laugh is more like a period: people laughed after they said something. In this way, laughter is just a social signal, involuntary, and completely honest. It’s human behavior, social behavior, and it isn’t new.

Want to know where scientists think it all started? Primates such as chimpanzees made a panting sound while chasing each other playfully. Rats make an inaudible-to-humans chirping sound when they are tickled. Scientists believe all animals, including humans, respond to play and ticklish behavior by laughing. This instinct serves a purpose in nature: it shows that this is considered “play” and not “fighting”.

A new study involving an unfunny joke proved that laughter is a social response. The boss of companies did not laugh while  underlings laughed more—showing that when you’re lower in status in a situation you are apt to laugh more because you are trying to grow. Researchers say laughter is an automatic response to a situation and not something we do consciously.

In other words, you are infinitely more likely to laugh during, say, a first date, then during a sketch comedy act.