Scarlette, South Wales asked:
Why do we laugh when we find something funny?
We put this to Robert Provine, Professor of Psychology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore:
Why do we laugh at something that’s funny? Something that’s funny is by definition something that makes us laugh. I’ll talk about why we laugh. Laughter is really a social phenomenon. If we look back to its origins, laughter, the ‘ha ha’ originated in the ‘pant pant’ of rough and tumble play such as you would find in tickle or the rough and tumble play of children. ‘Pant pant’ became the human ‘ha ha.’ With adults, however the arena of laughter has shifted from tickle and rough and tumble to a more linguistic and cognitive arena whereby, for example, the play of adults has to do with wordplay during conversations. You don’t have to tickle one of your colleagues to get them to laugh. You can tell them the joke. Even within conversation the key to laughter is the presence of another person. Laughter almost totally disappears when we’re alone. The key element for producing laughter is another person and not a joke. In fact we have followed people around and recorded what was said before people laugh. In only 10 or 15% is it anything remotely joke-like. Most laughter follows comments like ‘hey, where have you been? Ha ha!’ or ‘I’ve gotta go now, haha!’ These aren’t jokes so it basically is about developing bonds and relationships with other people.
I don't know the answer but doesn't the person who asked it have a lovely voice! Richard1964, Wed, 3rd Dec 2008
Yes, and she made her point beautifully because she laughed when she asked the question and that made me want to laugh!
Its interesting how we can laugh histerically at someone who has just tripped over and fallen in the mud as long as it doesn't look like they were too hurt, but we don't have the instinct to laugh when a more serious accident has happened, like if they tripped over the side of a cliff instead of into a mud puddle. Madidus_Scientia, Thu, 4th Dec 2008
MS, that would depend on the person in question. If Gordon Brown tripped and fell in mud, i wouldn't laugh, I'd just call him a dick head. If he were to trip off the top of a cliff, I'd be in hysterics!!! Don_1, Thu, 4th Dec 2008
This is "Schadenfreude" - the pleasure taken from observing the misery of another.
This is an absolutely fantastic interview with Tania Singer on the science of schadenfreude and how men and women differ in their desire for revenge...
Children I have taught at school often laugh when they are in trouble with a teacher. It is a nervous laugh. How does that work? I think laughing is as much stress relieving as crying. We often cry when we laugh and laugh when we should be crying. Make it Lady, Thu, 4th Dec 2008
Doesn't it occur unconsciously? I suppose something builds up inside and is let out as laughter... Chemistry4me, Mon, 8th Dec 2008
I was much surprised to hear that laughing stems mostly from social cues.
Like Mariaguimara, I often laugh when reading something that I find amusing, or laugh at inappropriate times - such as at my father's funeral when one of his old work colleagues mistook me for my mother. If that had not been funny enough, his embarrassment, and the expressions of shock on the faces of other mourners disapproving of my mirth would have been, and kept me amused for a while. My dad would also have found it highly amusing, too, so perhaps we inherit our senses of humour?
Girls like you are irresistible :)
When I used to go to Church bible study we had a whole lecture about how important it is in Human beings to have a sense of humor and be able to laugh in life. I remember one of our church members asked, " Does God laugh " ??? Our pastor told us that God is a God of Humor, he has given us the ability to laugh and express our sense of humor through that act. I do believe that, I am a creation of God's image and if he works in the most amazing and humorous ways then, I too have that ability too.
We won't be laughing for much longer. Chemistry4me, Tue, 3rd Feb 2009
Harharhar, what was all that about? Chemistry4me, Tue, 3rd Feb 2009
You mean to like to have people around you?
Every person who answers this question seems to give their opinion based upon anicdotal experience. Is there any emperical experimentation being conducted as to the actual logical mechanism that triggers laughter. Understanding this mechanism could yeild benifits both medical and cultural. Nicolas, Thu, 6th May 2010
I'm afraid I can't offer evidence for this, but here is a theory which fits the facts nicely:
You see, there's an old saying: laughter is the best medicine. seoerizer, Thu, 9th Sep 2010