Someone asked me this question and I can't seem to find an answer. When you find something funny, you laugh, but why? Is it a muscle spasm triggered by something your brain is responding to? I know that laughter in itself is basically a series of short breaths. So, is it an inability to communicate with words? I'm very lost and very curious about this. Please help if you have any information or valid sources. Thank you!
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replied November 24th, 2003
Active User, very eHealthy
Why Do We Laugh ???
Hi ladymeeth,

wow, what an incredibly interesting question. I found a paper written by by robert provine, ph.D. And I wanted to show it to you, I found it to be really interesting. To be honest, before you asked this question, i've never even thought about why we actually laugh:



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. (don’t take my word for it: ask a friend to laugh on the spot.)
laughter provides powerful, uncensored insights into our unconscious. It simply bubbles up from within us in certain situations.
Very little is known about the specific brain mechanisms responsible for laughter. But we do know that laughter is triggered by many sensations and thoughts, and that it activates many parts of the body.
When we laugh, we alter our facial expressions and make sounds. During exuberant laughter, the muscles of the arms, legs and trunk are involved. Laughter also requires modification in our pattern of breathing.
We also know that laughter is a message that we send to other people. We know this because we rarely laugh when we are alone (we laugh to ourselves even less than we talk to ourselves).
Laughter is social and contagious. We laugh at the sound of laughter itself. That’s why the tickle me elmo doll is such a success — it makes us laugh and smile.

The first laughter appears at about 3.5 to 4 months of age, long before we’re able to speak. Laughter, like crying, is a way for a preverbal infant to interact with the mother and other caregivers.
Contrary to folk wisdom, most laughter is not about humor; it is about relationships between people. To find out when and why people laugh, I and several undergraduate research assistants went to local malls and city sidewalks and recorded what happened just before people laughed. Over a 10-year period, we studied over 2,000 cases of naturally occurring laughter.


We found that most laughter does not follow jokes. People laugh after a variety of statements such as “hey john, where ya been?” “here comes mary,” “how did you do on the test?” and “do you have a rubber band?”. These certainly aren’t jokes.
We don’t decide to laugh at these moments. Our brain makes the decision for us. These curious “ha ha ha’s” are bits of social glue that bond relationships.
Curiously, laughter seldom interrupts the sentence structure of speech. It punctuates speech. We only laugh during pauses when we would cough or breathe.

An evolutionary perspective
we believe laughter evolved from the panting behavior of our ancient primate ancestors. Today, if we tickle chimps or gorillas, they don’t laugh “ha ha ha” but exhibit a panting sound. That’s the sound of ape laughter. And it’s the root of human laughter.
Apes laugh in conditions in which human laughter is produced, like tickle, rough and tumble play, and chasing games. Other animals produce vocalizations during play, but they are so different that it’s difficult to equate them with laughter. Rats, for example, produce high-pitch vocalizations during play and when tickled. But it’s very different in sound from human laughter.
When we laugh, we’re often communicating playful intent. So laughter has a bonding function within individuals in a group. It’s often positive, but it can be negative too. There’s a difference between “laughing with” and “laughing at.” people who laugh at others may be trying to force them to conform or casting them out of the group.
No one has actually counted how much people of different ages laugh, but young children probably laugh the most. At ages 5 and 6, we tend to see the most exuberant laughs. Adults laugh less than children, probably because they play less. And laughter is associated with play.
We have learned a lot about when and why we laugh, much of it counter-intuitive. Work now underway will tell us more about the brain mechanisms of laughter, how laughter has evolved and why we’re so susceptible to tickling — one of the most enigmatic of human behaviors.

Robert provine, ph.D., is a professor of psychology and neuroscience at the university of maryland, baltimore county. He is completing a book entitled “laughter” that is scheduled to be published this fall by little, brown and company.
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replied November 25th, 2003
Thank You!
Thank you for finding that for me! I appreciate it. Have a happy holiday. Thank you again!
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replied November 25th, 2003
Advanced Support Team
Laughter Can Be a Response to Fear
Laughter can also be a response to fear. Often, when confronted with a situation where we feel threatened or cornered we may laugh involuntarily. It is a defense mechanism that other animals besides humans (such as monkeys) emit when in pain or when encountered with an undefined situation, to signal the "attacker" that their neural response is elevated and they (we) are prepared to react.

When you see monkeys "laughing" in movies or commercials, often they are either being shocked by electrical current or threatened with it.



Interesting question...
_daniel
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replied November 25th, 2003
{re:} Why We Laugh!
That is an interesting point, but, that brings me to a
question; what about actors and actresses whom are only laughing
cuz it's in there line Question they laugh as if they really mean it, but it's
actually all part of the act Exclamation


great forum gals!
Hope to hear back from ya! Laughing
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replied December 3rd, 2003
Actors
Actors have spent alot of time improvising. They have their own tricks on how to laugh when theres nothing really funny. For example, you can think of something funny in your own head.
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replied December 13th, 2003
I once heard that laughter is the brains response to somethings that it is not able to understand... Or comprehend logically. Just givin some info :d
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