Imagine you are walking down the street in the dead of winter, there is ice everywhere. You are walking down the street and a lady, and her husband are coming out of the house to get to their car. Suddenly she starts to slip and slide, her body is flailing around, arms trying to grab the railing, and it ends with her on her butt in the snow. I can’t be the only one who would start to giggle and have to clear my throat so she wouldn’t notice me laughing at her.
In order to learn why we laugh we must understand how we laugh. When we laugh the brain ‘lights’ up in many parts and each part has a specific function. First the sensory processing area of the brain processes visual signals like flailing or someone’s facial expression. The cerebral cortex is the next part that lights, this is where the stimuli is being analyzed, whether it be someone falling or a verbal joke. The next two sections that light up are the right hemisphere which is the intellectual analysis to understand the joke and the frontal lobe that is involved in the social emotional responses. Finally, the motor sections respond with laughter.
Obviously, there are many reasons to why we laugh, but why do we laugh when someone goes through misfortune? The biggest reason to why we laugh while other are slipping on a banana peel or getting smack in the groin would be mental distance. Guys may not be able to fully mental distance though when it comes to groin shots in movies. Mental Distancing is a way for people to psychologically distance from the situation occurring and that makes us more prone to laugh out loud. Seeing other people getting hurt is funny because we don’t feel empathy for the victim since we are distancing.
Another big reasons for why we laugh is all about the facial expression of the person getting hurt or the person telling us the joke. All people have a part in the brain that recognizes a fearful expression or recognizes a situation that should make us afraid. When people are slipping or ice or walking into a pole it creates a ‘fear face’, the wide eyes and open mouth. When someone is having a fear response to a non-life-threatening situation it creates a backwards effect on those watching. We get amused because we realize the situation isn’t serious, but they are still freaking out about it.
The superiority theory is also a reason we laugh at others. We find the situation they are in stressful, but we ourselves are not in that situation so it’s funny! We would be the superior person since we didn’t make the mistake. We all laugh at issues that cause us stress which is why comedians are so successful.
Why is laughing healthy?
- Mentally: Helps us cope with life by getting rid of our tensions whether is be physical or mental
- Immune Strengthening: Increases blood platelets (limits obstruction of arteries and lowers blood pressure), Increase in Gamma-interferon (disease fighting), Increase in T-cells (immune response) and B-cells (Disease-destroying antibodies)
- Respiratory: Clears the respiratory tract by dislodging mucus and increase salivary immunoglobulin A which protects us from infectious organisms
- Pain: Eases pain by producing natural painkillers
- Physical: Facial, leg, back, abdominal, and diaphragm muscle a workout
Brain, Marshall. “How Laughter Works.” HowStuffWorks Science, HowStuffWorks, 27 Jan. 2020, science.howstuffworks.com/life/inside-the-mind/emotions/laughter4.htm.
Rutherford, Fiona. Study Finds Brain Confusion Causes Us to Laugh at the Misfortune of Others, 12 Aug. 2014, www.newstatesman.com/sci-tech/2014/08/study-finds-brain-confusion-causes-us-laugh-misfortune-others.
“The Laughing Brain 1: How We Laugh.” Science NetLinks, sciencenetlinks.com/lessons/the-laughing-brain-1/.