Laughter is contagious and is one of the distinguishing features of human beings, but it is little understood. Scientists do know that it is a highly sophisticated social signaling system that helps people bond, but most of it it not the result of a joke. Nor is it always triggered by cheerfulness; embarrassment and other social discomforts cam also trigger laughter. Brain-imaging studies of humans watching funny cartoons or listening to jokes activates parts of the brain.
A couple of interesting facts about laughter: it is not generally under voluntary control and it has numerous health benefits such as releasing tension, lowering anxiety and it has health benefits. It boosts the immune system, and aids circulation.
Robert Provine, a neuroscientist and psychology professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County tracked and observed real-world laughter and the results were surprising. Less than 20 percent was in response to anything funny. Far more often, people snickered at innocuous statements and the person doing the snickering was 46 percent more likely to be the one snickering than the listener. In only eight of the 1,200 laugh episodes cataloged did laughter interrupt what somebody was saying. Almost every time laughter was a natural breaks in the conversation, sort of like verbal punctuation. Everyday laughter is an important part of our communication and a result of finding something funny.
Evolutionists have all kinds of possible explanations, but in a 2005 Quarterly Review of Biology article told of a 19th-century French physician named Guillaume Duchenne, who worked at an old woman’s hospice and went around poking them in the face with an electrode. All of them wanted to be electrocuted by the “little old man with his mischief box.”
In his quirky experiment Duchenne found that it caused the kind of smiling, the voluntary kind, when we a grin to be polite. This smiling involves the face’s zygomatic major muscles raising the corners of the mouth.
But, there is a different type of smiling when something is funny. That smiling uses both the zygomatic major muscles and the orbicularis oculi muscles around your eyes. That's why people say a real smile is in the eyes. He couldn't produce this kind of smile by zapping the old women. Evolutionists have the theory that the kind of laughter triggered by something funny was a signal that everything was OK and it was a good time to socialize.
Do animals have a sense of humor? Not munch is known about animal laughter, but comparative science over the past decade have concluded that rats, especially juvenile rats, laugh, but that discovery has been heatedly debated. Penny Paterson, president of the Gorilla Foundation says that Koko, the gorilla famous for her sign language abilities, even had a special "ho, ho," for visitors she liked.
Researcher Jaak Panksepp, in a paper in Behavioural Brain Research said there is a possibility that rats may have a”s social-joy type experiences during their playful activities and that an important communicative-affective component of that process, which invigorates social engagement, is a primordial form of laughter.” Rat laughter is in the form of high-frequency ultrasonic calls, or “chirps,” that are distinct from other rat noises. Rats it turns out are particularly ticklish around the nape of their neck and when juveniles play they chirp away when they playmates grab them there.
Experimenters discovered that they quit laughing though (if you can call it laughter) when things got serious. Like smelling a cat, were very hungry or when they were exposed to unpleasant bright lights during tickling.
Panksepp is not implying that rats have a sense of humor, only that there appears to be a correlation between young rats and human children at play. Adult humor requires cognitive mechanisms that may or may not be present in other species.
In humans laughter can accompany joy, affection, amusement, cheerfulness, surprise, nervousness, sadness, fear, shame, aggression, triumph, taunt and pleasure in another persons misfortune. Studies have shown that human beings possess an uncanny ability to detect a laugher's psychological intent by the sound of laugh sounds alone. The mechanism of laughter is so ingrained in our brains that babies as young as 17 days old have been observed doing it. In fact, children born blind and deaf still have the ability to laugh.
Researchers hired professional actors and recorded them laughing and came up with four basic types of laughter.
Joyful laughter. e.g. meeting a good friend after not having seen them for a very long time.
Taunting laughter. Laughing at an opponent after having defeated him. It reflects the emotion of sneering contempt and serves to humiliate the listener.
Schadenfreude laughter. This is laughing at another person's bad luck. This differs from taunting because does not want to seriously hurt the other person.
Tickling. Laughing when being physically tickled.
The people were instructed to identify the emotions behind the laughs. Subjects were able to correctly classify the laughs. They were also asked the emotional state of the laugher and it was discovered that each form of laughter had a unique
Just 10 to 15 minutes of laughing a day can burn up to 40 calories, according to a Vanderbilt University study because the increase in heart rate and oxygen consumption boosted the calorie burn. Research from Loma Linda University showed that laughing improved the memory of adults in their 60s and 70s and at the University of Maryland School of Medicine researchers found that hilarious movies improved the function of blood vessels and increased blood flow in a group of thirty year olds. And other research has shown that laughing can improve immunity, help regulate blood sugar levels, and improve sleep.
In a Northwestern University study showed that people with a certain “short” gene are quicker to laugh at cartoons or funny movie clips than those with the “long” version of the same gene. The same gene has long been associated with depression. The study determined that people with the short version may flourish in a positive environment and suffer in a negative one. People with the long version are less sensitive to environmental conditions.