Funny Science: What is the Science behind Laughter?
Laughter is one of the best things you can experience in your daily life. Whether it's a small chuckle from looking at a silly meme or silently shaking shoulders while joking around with friends, laughter is almost always seen as a good thing. In fact, the presence of laughter in our lives can even impact our mental health. However, what is the reason behind this involuntary reaction? And why does it feel so good?
Why Do We Laugh?
Various theories have been tested through the years in order to understand why we laugh, but there's still no definite answer on the topic. Here's a list of some of the most common theories for the cause of laughter:
It's possible that laughter is just a vocalisation of the emotions we feel. We react to a situation in a certain way, and we vocalise the emotions that arise. So, the reason behind the laughter is basically just the vocalisation of the feelings we have at the moment.
Expressing Feelings and Releasing Tension
Another theory looks at laughter as a way to express feelings and release tension. Our brain comes into a situation that makes us react in a certain way. We then decide to vocalise our feelings through laughter. The reason behind laughter has to do with our need to release whatever tension we have felt.
Humour and Confidence
Taking a different approach, humour and confidence theories for laughter also exist. Laughter is a way to communicate humour and confidence to others. It's also a form of communication that is unique to humans. Animals don't joke around and frequently don't express confidence, so the reason why we laugh comes from the need to communicate both those feelings.
Why Does Laughing Feel Good?
Laughter is a response to humour or a thing that is perceived as funny. However, why does this cause our brains to release endorphins and dopamine, which are the chemicals that make us feel good? Even when we have heard the same joke over and over again, we still laugh at it because of the release of these hormones.
While scientists are not exactly sure why laughter releases these chemicals, they have a few theories on the subject.
One theory suggests that laughing and smiling release endorphins and dopamine, causing the brain to release its own form of endorphins, which makes us feel better. In a study done by the University of Oxford, researchers found that people who smiled and made themselves laugh had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Another theory states that these good feelings are caused by the release of endorphins, which is an opiate that provides a sense of euphoria. The release of these endorphins results in a feeling of extreme pleasure and happiness.
Why Is Laughter Contagious?
We laugh when we see other people laugh because we're highly social animals. We are able to feel emotions in response to other individuals through a process called emotional contagion. Emotional contagion is a process where people in close proximity to one another begin to feel the same emotions. As a result, when we see somebody else laugh, our brain tells us that laughter must be a positive cognitive state because everybody else is doing it, so why don't we do it as well?
So, the more people are laughing around us, the more we think laughter is a good thing. After you've started to laugh, you may think about the funniest parts of the joke and laugh even more, thus resulting in a snowball effect of laughter.
Expressive forms of laughter are both social and contagious. Our need to communicate, as well as our need to be a part of society, compels us to laugh at someone else's jokes and makes us more prone to express happiness. Laughter is one of the best things you can experience in your daily life, so don't take it so seriously. Go out there and laugh!
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