It’s normal to laugh because we think that people laugh when they are happy. Laughter is part of the universal human vocabulary. All members of the human species understand it.
Unlike English or French or Swahili, we don’t have to learn to speak it. We are born with the capacity to laugh. But there is something you need to know about laughing.
One of the remarkable things about laughter is that it occurs unconsciously. You don’t decide to do it. While we can consciously inhibit it, we don’t consciously produce laughter. That’s why it’s very hard to laugh on command or to fake laughter.
Laughter provides powerful, uncensored insights into our unconscious. It simply bubbles up from within us in certain situations.
A team of California psychologists has developed a sense-of- humor test that they believe may eventually shed light on the fundamental nature of human personality. The device, which they say bears some similarity to an intelligence test, is intended to operate on the premise that if we understand who will laugh at what and why, we can learn more about our important differences.
We should know that laughter is, basically, a voluntary matter. Therefore when people laugh together at some shared joke, they form, however briefly and in an ephemeral way, a bond. Almost any joke can then become an ‘inside joke’ insofar as you-had-to-be-there or you reference the first telling. Humor is a way to share our humanity with one another and share our foibles. Jokes are often a means of referencing a mistake and displaying potential vulnerability, and so they are a way of connecting with others.
Did you know that laughter isn’t always about jokes? Ask adults what makes them laugh, and m ost will tell you it’s jokes and humour. But they would be wrong. Psychologists found that we actually laugh most when talking to our friends. In fact we’re 30 times more likely to laugh at something when we are with other people.
Intriguingly, within these conversations, we are still not laughing at jokes: we laugh at statements and comments that do not seem on the face of them to be remotely funny. And this is a form of communication, not a reaction. The science of laughter is telling us that laughter is less to do with jokes and more a social behaviour which we use to show people that we like them and that we understand them.
You don’t have to be happy or have a reason to laugh. Anyone can do it. Even those with zero sense of humor can reap the benefits of laughter. How? Fake it. A 2002 study in Psychological Reports reveals that forcing yourself to laugh or even just to smile, can improve your mood. The human brain is not able to distinguish spontaneous laughter from self-induced; therefore the corresponding health-related benefits are alleged to be alike. So, go on and force it anyway.