Cause and Effect: Serious Studies on Laughter

Why did the frog cross the road? Because he was glued to the chicken! (Du Dun Chh). Even though this joke isn’t very funny you still laughed. Laughter is caused by a great number of situations, from bonding with one another, to asserting dominance, to being a vocal filler. The effects of laughter can be very medicinal, and it’s often called the “Best Medicine.”

Laughter is very contagious. Even just listening to someone else laugh makes us laugh. For this reason, the once popular Tickle-Me-Elmo Doll, became a must have, Elmo’s laugh made us laugh. (A Big Mystery…). The contagiousness of laughter may stem from the fact that laughter has been one form of strong social bonding for millennia. When you laugh with people you become relaxed and comfortable around another. (Poking Fun).

Another reason people laugh besides social bonding is the Superiority Theory. This theory states that “people laugh to assert that they are on a level equal to or higher than those around them.” (Poking Fun). A proven example of this would be the fact that employees crack less jokes than their superiors. Another example of the Superiority Theory has to do with men and women. Studies have shown that men make more jokes around women, and women tend to laugh more around men. Also, men tend to laugh much louder around men, than they do around women. (Poking Fun)

Laughter can also take the place of a breath or pause while speaking, and there for doesn’t interrupt the structure of the sentence, becoming a vocal filler. When laughter becomes a vocal filler, it shows that laughter is subconscious. An example of this would be when you’re talking, and you’re not sure what to say next, so you say “um?” We don’t decide to laugh, it simply happens. This is why one cannot laugh on command. (A Big Mystery…).

Laughter is one of the best stress relievers. When you laugh it releases “happy” endorphins into your system. For this reason, and many others, laughter is often referred to as the “Best Medicine.” (Weed, 93) It is also thought that humor can strengthen your immune system, and control your pain tolerance. Laughter has also been shown to lower ones anxiety level, and possibly even increase healing rate. Another study has shown that someone with a good sense of humor will have fewer colds than someone with an average or poor sense of humor. (Study Looks At Effects…). In fact, one doctor, Dr. William Fry, compared it to “inner jogging.” Dr. Fry states “Ten minutes of rowing is the same as laughing 100 times a day.” (The Healthful Effects…). It has been proven that laughter can increase blood circulation, increase heart rate, and works muscles all over the body. It has also proven to protect the body against depression. (The Healthful Effects…). Though all of these effects of laughter are good for you, a study has shown that the brain, when under MRI, shows similarities between laughter and certain types of epilepsy and seizure. (The Secret Life…).

Even with all the research done on laughter, it is still the most misunderstood function of human behavior. (The Secret Life…). No one is really sure why laughter replaces a pause, or why we feel more comfortable around someone when we share a good hardy laugh, or why how much you laugh proves dominance. Research still has yet to explain why laughter can increase our health so much. However, when it comes down to it, none of these things need to be explained. Why, because it’s simply fun to laugh, and that’s all you every really need to know.

Works Cited

The Healthful Effects of Laughter. (Online) Available 14 September 2005.

Poking Fun. (Online) Available 4 August 2005.

Provine, Robert and Ph. D. A Big Mystery: Why Do We Laugh. (Online) Available 14 September 2005.

The Secret Life of the Brain: The Adult Brain. (Online) Available 14 September 2005.

Study Looks at Effects of Laughter on Immune System. (Online) Available 14 September 2005.

Weed, William S. "I Am Moe\'s Funny Bone." Reader\'s Digest September 2005: 92-97.