The funny thing about laughter is we don’t know why we do it. Sometimes we do, but it sounds fake. That’s why it is difficult to laugh when you don’t mean it or you don’t get the joke. Laughter usually occurs unconsciously.
Not much is actually known about how the brain triggers us to laugh, but we do know it is triggered by sensations, by thoughts, and when we laugh many parts of our bodies are triggered. Our facial expressions change, we make sounds through our mouth and nose. With truly great laughter, we use muscles in our arms, legs, even our core.
I once knew someone who laughed so hard he actually cracked a rib. That’s some pretty significant muscle triggering there.
Laughter is usually a social activity. There are times when we laugh when we are alone, but we are much more likely to talk to ourselves than we are to laugh when we are alone.
Much like yawning, laughter is contagious. When we hear someone laugh, we are more likely to laugh ourselves. That’s why comedy clubs work. All they need are a couple of people who really get the comedian’s jokes and the whole house will begin laughing.
As babies, we begin to laugh when we are between three and four months old. It is a method of communication that precedes the ability to talk. It is a way for a nonverbal infant to interact with mom, dad, and other family members.
Laughter is thought be driven by humor. But that really isn’t the case. It is more about relationships between people. Sure, we can laugh at a joke, but have you noticed that people are just as likely to laugh when a basic statement is made, like: “Can I borrow your lawn mower?” Sure, that might be funny, but the laughter that results doesn’t happen because of a decision anyone made.
Our brains decide when we should laugh. It typically communicates playful intent, but it has a more important purpose. It bonds individuals within a group.
Usually, it is a positive force, but it can be negative as well, hence the “laughing with you not at you” statement. People who laugh at another person are trying to get them to conform or to socially exclude them from a group.
Because they tend to be more playful, children tend to laugh the most of all age groups. Adults, again because they play less, are less likely to laugh. There is more to be learned about this human behavior called laughter.