The purpose of laughter: to share, connect and heal

by

Casper Addyman is a psychology researcher who studies the laughter of babies.

In his work, he found that babies and children laugh more when there is at least one other person present. And their laughter doesn’t increase with the number of people who are around. Even when children are watching a cartoon alone (being formally observed during a research study), they seek eye contact with the researcher who is observing them during the funny moments.

So, children laugh to communicate to the people they spend time with that they have found something funny. It is a behaviour that is driven by the desire to share, connect and socially interact.

Researchers have established that laughter helps us to feel like we belong. They have also found that, because little babies have few ways to communicate, laughter is especially important for them.

Do a YouTube search of “babies laughing” and you’ll find videos there that have been viewed 79 million times. So it isn’t just babies who benefit from laughing; we benefit from hearing them laughing as well. And so the human desire for social interaction comes full circle.

Does laughter also help us physically and mentally?

We can’t ignore the physical benefits of laughter. When we laugh, our entire bodies are involved.

With the expulsion of residual air from our lungs, our blood is enriched and all of our organs and body tissues are nourished. Our vocal chords get a workout. Even our immune system is supported by a good laugh.

And our minds benefit as well. When we laugh, sections of our brains light up. This leads to the release of stress hormones (including cortisol), and the activation of our memory centres. Endorphins are released, generating positive feelings and reducing pain levels.

It is even beneficial to hear someone laughing. Laughter really is contagious! The brain hears the laughter and prepares to respond to join in on the fun.

So remember that each time you laugh, you are sharing joy with humanity and doing us all a favour.