Laughter Research: Serious Info on Causes, Brain Structures & Evolution

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Of course, there are variations, but for the most part, everyone laughs in roughly the same way. In summary, laughter is an aborted cry that is common to all cultures and is usually for the individual's mother or father. It is important for laughter, but not necessary.
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Does any of you have some serious information on what laughter is?

What causes it? When do we learn to laugh? (do we?) Do animals laugh? Are there specific brain structures related to it? Does it correspond to an evolutionary need?
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  • #2
I think there was a thread about this a while ago, but there was also an article about it in a recent Discover or Scientific American magazine. If I remember correctly, it has something to do with needing to forge social bonds. I was unable to find the article on Discover's site, but you can check this link out - it's from last year but still relevant. [Broken]
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  • #3
That article was really interesting to read
  • #4
I don't know much about it but it must be important as a friend of mine is doing a masters on "Laughter in the Treatment of Cancer" so take from that what you will.
  • #5
Desmond Morris proposed that a laugh is an aborted cry. He cites the fact that an individual's first laugh is usually for that individuals mother or father, and is a response to a situation that would normally be considered alarming, or even frightening. His take is that the infant then begins to cry, and stops themselves abruptly with a realization something akin to, "this is frightening, but Mom does not appear alarmed, so it must be OK".

At least on the surface, this reasoning seems sound. If you examine the nature of humor, throughout all cultures one common denominator is that humor must, as a surprise. So the connection between laughter and being startled has some support.
  • #6
I agree to a certain extent, but not 100% fully. For example, I can watch a movie that I think is funny more than once and laugh at the jokes that I know are coming. It may just be a function of memory (IE, I remember being startled and laugh at that) but I do not believe this to be the case. I think being surprised is important for laughter, but not necessary.

Another interesting thing to note is that almost everyone in the world laughs the same. It's one of the few things that is almost universal as a species.

1. What are the main causes of laughter?

Laughter can be caused by a variety of factors, such as humor, surprise, joy, and social interactions. It is a complex response that involves both physical and psychological processes.

2. What brain structures are involved in laughter?

The primary brain structure involved in laughter is the limbic system, which is responsible for processing emotions. Specifically, the amygdala and the hypothalamus play a crucial role in producing laughter. The cerebral cortex, which is responsible for higher-level thinking, also plays a role in interpreting and understanding humor.

3. How has laughter evolved in humans?

Laughter is believed to have evolved as a way for humans to communicate and bond with each other. It is thought to have originated from the play behavior of our primate ancestors and has since evolved to serve social functions, such as signaling friendliness and reducing tension in social situations.

4. Can laughter have any health benefits?

Research has shown that laughter can have numerous health benefits, including reducing stress and anxiety, boosting the immune system, and improving cardiovascular health. It can also help to improve relationships and enhance overall well-being.

5. What are some common misconceptions about laughter?

One common misconception about laughter is that it is solely a response to humor. In reality, laughter can be triggered by a variety of emotions and social cues. Another misconception is that laughter is purely a human behavior, when in fact, many animals also exhibit forms of laughter-like vocalizations.

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