What Is Laughter?

Man is the only animal that laughs and weeps: for he is the only animal that is struck with the difference between what things are, and what they ought to be.

- William Hazlitt, On Wit and Humor

Podcast of the Day

What is laughter? What roles does it serve? Neuroscientist Sophie Scott discusses this very serious question with Nigel Warburton for this episode of Mind Bites made for Philosophy Bites. Mind Bites is part of Nicholas Shea's AHRC-funded project Meaning for the Brain and Meaning for the Person. 

Listen to Sophie Scott on Laughter

Video of the Day

Short Article of the Day

When you hear someone laugh behind you, you probably picture them on the phone or with a friend – smiling and experiencing a warm, fuzzy feeling inside. Chances are just the sound of the laughter could make you smile or even laugh along. But imagine that the person laughing is just walking around alone in the street, or sitting behind you at a funeral. Suddenly, it doesn’t seem so inviting.

The truth is that laughter isn’t always positive or healthy. According to science, it can be classified into different types, ranging from genuine and spontaneous to simulated (fake), stimulated (for example by tickling), induced (by drugs) or even pathological. But the actual neural basis of laughter is still not very well known – and what we do know about it largely comes from pathological clinical cases...

Continue reading Lynne A. Barker's article: The science of laughter - and why it also has a dark side

Further Reading

Laughter is a physical reaction in humans and some other species of primate, consisting typically of rhythmical, often audible contractions of the diaphragm and other parts of the respiratory system. It is a response to certain external or internal stimuli. Laughter can arise from such activities as being tickled, or from humorous stories or thoughts. Most commonly, it is considered a visual expression of a number of positive emotional states, such as joy, mirth, happiness, relief, etc. On some occasions, however, it may be caused by contrary emotional states such as embarrassment, apology, or confusion such as nervous laughter or courtesy laugh. Age, gender, education, language, and culture are all factors as to whether a person will experience laughter in a given situation...

Continue reading the Wikipedia article on Laughter

Bonus Webcomic

Related Topics

If you’re interested in laughter, check out some of the following related topics for more resources:

 Emotion | Happiness | Psychology

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