Question Your World: Why Do We Like to Laugh? | Community Idea Stations


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Question Your World: Why Do We Like to Laugh?

Let’s talk about when you LOL or ROFL or whatever best describes your laughing skills. Laughter is a common part of our lives, but why do we like to laugh? Listen to this Question Your World radio report produced by the Science Museum of Virginia to find out.

Our brain still remains a pretty big mystery in general, but perhaps shedding some light on the sillier aspects of life could help us further complete the puzzle that is the human brain. After all it takes a lot of brain power to laugh. To understand a joke one must use our learned knowledge stored as memories, our brain processing centers to make sense of language and words, activate our pleasure centers, and many more. Multiple parts of the human brain are involved in the simple act of understanding a joke and laughing.

Okay, so for starters, we humans are not the only ones that laugh. Many apes like chimps, gorillas, bonobos, and orangutans are known to laugh. Dogs make sounds that are made only during play or in positive doggie-socializing situations. Our underwater cousins, the dolphins make certain sounds only when in play mode or in non-stressful situations. Even rats laugh! They make an ultrasonic sound that we can't even hear, but with special equipment we can record it and now we've know it only happens when they are playing or being tickled by human hands.

So observing laughter in all these different species allows us to understand that laughter is not always in response to something being funny. No jokes are being told between our hands and the rat's belly, but somehow laughing is still the end result. In fact about 20% of human laughter has nothing to do with jokes. Laughing is a sound that we commonly use in social situations. After researching this on groups of people scientists have seen that we tend to laugh 30% more when we are with other people. Many scientists are looking into how laughing has played a role in our social, biological, and mental evolution.

Laughing does a lot of other stuff too like it helps lower blood pressure, releases endorphins, boosts T-cells, and much more! The act of laughter is a pretty complex process that ties in our aspects of our social, mental, and physical on goings. The root of all of this is still the big mystery though. There's still a lot to learn about the relationship between laughing and our brain.

No wonder we have a lot of very serious people looking into this very silly topic! An entire school has been dedicated to this topic in Colorado too. The Humor Research Lab, lovingly referred to as Hurl, has been studying the many aspects of humor, laughing, and the evolutionary impacts this has had on our brains and the species as a whole.

So, with that said, let's wrap up with a joke:

What did the Buddhist monk say to the hot dog vendor?

He said: Make me one with everything!