We are all born with the capacity to laugh. There is not one human being who does not understand laughter. Like language, it is a way we communicate with others but unlike the former, we do not have to learn it. It’s the most basic form of communication. Babies start laughing before they learn to talk. That is their way of communicating with their care givers.
Laughter comes naturally to us. We cannot force laughter. Yet, it seems so easy. We laugh unconsciously and that reveals a lot about us. We find ourselves laughing uncontrollably in inappropriate places and situations like the school library or a funeral. But then, when we try to force ourselves to laugh, it just won’t happen.
Laughter is social. We laugh more with people than we do alone. Even when we are alone, we often laugh at a memory which we have shared with people. Laughter makes social bonds strong. Laughter has the power to make any situation light and cheerful. Hence, we see a lot of people trying to evade serious problems by cracking jokes. Laughter is also contagious. We laugh when we hear or see others laughing. Sitcoms almost force their audience to laugh at non humorous content using this method.
Humans can claim that they are the only ones with a sense of humor. But they are definitely not the only ones who can laugh. Apes laugh too. They kind of pant when they laugh, unlike the ‘ha ha’ noise that we make. Rats laugh too. And then, we have all the YouTube videos where we see humans trying to make their pet cats laugh.
So, why do we laugh? When we hear or see something funny, right? Robert Provine, professor of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore Country has conducted a study on this. He has found out that people laugh more when stating things than after hearing something funny. Laughter is used for building social relations.
While laughter brings positivity, there is a dark side to it. There is a difference between laughing with someone and laughing at someone. Often, people are bullied and laughed at. This is an act of social exclusion, to show that the person is inferior and doesn’t fit in.
As we grow up, we start laughing less. Unconscious laughter is replaced by smirks and fake laughter to appease people. We see people signing up for laughter therapy to reduce stress. No one really knows if laughter itself can be a cure. But we do know that being around people and the positivity that laughter brings can solve a lot of the problems we face.