Image source: media1.onsugar.com
Most of us feel better when we laugh. Crack a joke and you’ll find that a difficult or awkward situation suddenly feels a bit lighter and easier. But there’s a lot about laughter you may not know. Neuroscientist and part time stand-up comic Professor Sophie Scott reveals some of these things in an article on the BBC. Below is my take on her list of 10.
- Animals laugh as they play. Lots of mammals, including rats, chimps and dogs all laugh when they’re playing – they’re not laughing at jokes. This suggests human laughter has evolved from the vocalization of play.
- Laughter isn’t about jokes. We’re 30 times more likely to laugh when we’re with other people. We’re laughing as a way to communicate, and to show we like and understand that person. Our laughter is a positive reaction to their comments and statements, not necessarily their jokes.
- Your brain can recognize fake laughter. Lab research from brain scans shows that we try and comprehend someone’s deliberate laugh – to find out why they are doing so.
- Laughter is contagious. When you see someone else laughing, your facial muscles start to prepare themselves to join in.
- Expectation fuels laughter. When you expect someone to be funny they often are. If you heard the same joke by a person on the street or a famous comedian, you’d most likely laugh at the comedian.
- Laughter makes you healthier. While laughing doesn’t quite make you fitter – it would probably take about three hours of solid laughter to burn off a packet of chips – it can alleviate stress and lift your mood.
- Laughter helps you stay together. Laughing together helps relationships last. It makes you feel closer.
- Laughter requires timing. In conversation, laughter usually occurs when you finish a sentence. This even applies to conversations in sign language, where people could laugh at any time.
- Laughter is attractive. One study found both men and women valued a sense of humour in a prospective partner more frequently than intelligence, education or profession.
- Unstoppable laughter. When people are trying desperately not to laugh, that’s often when laughter becomes incontrollable. Newsreader bloopers are evidence of this.