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  • Laughter is a social emotion,

  • so we're 30 times more likely to laugh

  • if there is somebody else with us than if we're on our own.

  • And we'll laugh more if we know those people,

  • and we'll laugh more if we like those people.

  • Why do humans laugh?

  • We laugh to show that we agree with what someone said.

  • That we remember the same thing that they're alluding to.

  • People will also use laughter to try and mask other emotions.

  • People will laugh to try and pretend they're not upset

  • or to cover up being angry or embarrassed or in pain.

  • People will use laughter to get other people to do things.

  • If you get someone laughing,

  • they will tell you more intimate details about themselves.

  • There are two main kinds of laughter, according to Sophie.

  • The first is sort of spontaneous laughter,

  • if you think about laughter that happens

  • and you cannot stop laughing, it can sound like this:

  • The laughter just overwhelms you

  • and then you're just going to have to ride it out.

  • That's quite a different kind of laughter

  • from the sort of laughter you find in conversations,

  • which is of course most of the laughter you encounter,

  • and that sounds more like this.

  • There laughter is really brief and it's shared,

  • people tend to laugh together,

  • and they laugh together in a very coordinated way.

  • People laugh at the ends of sentences.

  • And that's actually quite interesting,

  • because it's even the case

  • if somebody's having a sign language conversation

  • where they could laugh all the way through,

  • they don't, they still laugh together at the ends of sentences.

  • So why can laughter sometimes feel contagious?

  • You can probably think of occasions

  • when you've been watching television or listening to the radio,

  • maybe it's been broadcast live,

  • and the presenter or presenters start to get the giggles.

  • The award-winning screenwriter, Abby Mann, has died at the age of 80.

  • He won an Academy Award in 1961 for Judgement at Nuremberg.

  • Ab-- Excuse me, sorry.

  • Abby Mann also won several Emmys, including--

  • Including one in 1973 for--

  • For a film which featured a-- (giggling)

  • A police detective called-- (laughter)

  • If you chuckled while listening to that clip, here's why.

  • It's called behaviourally contagious phenomena,

  • which are things you can catch from somebody else

  • just because they're doing them.

  • You might have noticed this happens with yawning,

  • it happens a lot with laughter.

  • Babies don't show any behaviourally contagious phenomena,

  • and effectively we teach them to.

  • So if you look at babies and parents,

  • parents will try and make babies laugh,

  • and babies do laugh and it's lovely.

  • If the parent laughs, the baby doesn't join in.

  • But if the baby laughs, the parent does join in,

  • because the contagion is working.

  • And effectively that seems to be the root

  • whereby we start to teach babies

  • that this is something that we do together.

  • Laughter isn't exclusive to humans.

  • We know that laughter is extremely easily observed in other apes.

  • So gorillas laugh, chimpanzees laugh, orangutans laugh,

  • and they laugh in a very, very similar way to humans.

  • The main difference is that chimpanzees, for example,

  • laugh on an exhalation and an inhalation,

  • so we just laugh ha-ha-ha, breathing out,

  • chimpanzees do more like a ha-ah-ha-ah,

  • sounds a bit like he-eh-he-eh.

  • So chimpanzees use laughter in a pretty complex way

  • much as we do, and it happens in the same situations.

  • It's associated with tickling, with play,

  • with trying to make play last longer.

  • And it's not just primates.

  • Laughter-like behaviour has also been described in rats and parrots.

  • Unfortunately laughter can also have a darker side.

  • These big squeezes that you do with your ribcage when you laugh,

  • particularly if you're laughing really hard,

  • it's quite stressful for your heart and your lungs

  • and that can mean if you have some sort of problem

  • maybe with your heart or your lungs or your blood vessels,

  • you can put them under more strain.

  • And throughout history there are examples of people

  • who have died laughing.

  • And I think, if you're going to have to go somehow,

  • probably going while you're laughing, there could be worse ways.

  • Luckily there are lots of health benefits to laughing too.

  • You are more relaxed when you laugh.

  • So as soon as you start laughing, you get a reduction in adrenaline.

  • You also get an increased uptake

  • of the body's naturally circulating endorphins.

  • Now that is because you do quite a lot of exercise at your ribcage

  • when you laugh.

  • It's exactly the same as a runner's high

  • or the good feeling you get after exercising.

  • And interestingly that's true of laughter

  • even if you've completely faked the laughter,

  • so it does suggest that it's something to do

  • with the ha-ha-ha movements.

  • So if you want to get your endorphins going,

  • you can start by laughing out loud.

  • And if you're by yourself and have no one to laugh with,

  • here's something that might help.

  • Oh my god.

  • Oh!

  • Where did you find that?

  • What is that?

  • (laughing)

Laughter is a social emotion,

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Why do humans laugh? | BBC Ideas

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    Summer posted on 2021/04/15
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