Laughter is an aspect of human behaviour. It is a reaction which helps to clarify our intentions in social situations and provides the emotional essence. Laughter is said to be the best medicine and it often lightens up the conversation. When we interact with someone and experience It from the person, we feel comfortable. This is because it signals acceptance and is seen as positive feedback.
Biology behind Laughter
Although there is no laugh centre of the brain according to neurophysiology, laughing is connected to the activation of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which releases endorphins. It is also clear that the neuronal pathways that develop near the telencephalic and diencephalic centres involved in respiration are necessary for the manifestation of the laughter response. Wilson believed that the mesial thalamus, hypothalamus, and subthalamus were the location of the mechanism.
Researchers have established that the limbic system has a role in laughter. This system assists us with bodily processes required for human survival and is engaged in emotions. The hippocampus and the amygdala are two limbic system components that are involved in laughter.
Kelly and colleagues hypothesized that the integrating process that regulates emotional expression is located close to the periaqueductal grey in the tegmentum. In the reticular core of the brain stem, supranuclear routes, among which are from the limbic system that Papez theorized would be responsible for expressing emotions like laughter, likely form synaptic connections. Therefore, the cerebral cortex can control or repress pure emotional responses, such as laughing, which stereotyped and mediated by subcortical systems, particularly the hypothalamus.
Theoretical Explanations for Laughter
Most of the theory surrounding laughter is around the concept of humour. The earliest theory of humour postulates that people find humour in and laugh at former versions of themselves and the unfortunate circumstances of others because they feel superior. This view of humor stretches back to Plato alongside other ancient Greek scholars. Other earliest theories about humour and laughter are as follows:
Theory of Release
In the 18th century, researchers/individuals developed the principle of release. Sigmund Freud later developed this theory, arguing that people can laugh to let off steam or release trapped “nervous energy.”This process, according to Freud, explains why jokes that touch on sensitive social and racial issues, as well as prohibited scatological and sexual themes, may make us laugh. The punch line releases the energy used to repress undesirable feelings such as desire or hatred, resulting in laughter.
According to the relief theory, humour eases tension by focusing predominantly on the motivational processes that govern interpersonal needs. Laughter serves as the equivalent of a steam pipe pressure valve, according to Martin and Ford (2018), who compare this to a hydraulic engine. In this way, laughter helps release tension that has built up. More specifically, laughter serves the vital function of releasing stored neural energy through the muscular and respiratory processes involved.
Theory of Incongruity
People chuckle at the juxtaposition of opposed ideas and the defiance of expectations, or more specifically, at the discrepancy between expectations and actuality. A variation of the notion known as the resolution of incongruity states that laughter occurs when a person finds an unanticipated solution to a seeming discord, such as when they understand a statement’s double meaning and consequently perceive it in a completely different light.
Many aspects of laughter remain unexplained, despite the previous explanations. For instance, they don’t set well-defined parameters for testing or explaining different types of humour or even fully clarify its appeal. Thus, from the theory of incongruity McGraw and Warren developed the benign violation hypothesis. Humour arises when a person simultaneously acknowledges that they have broken an ethical, social, or physical standard and that they do not find this violation particularly repugnant, insulting, or disturbing. Therefore, someone who views a violation as unimportant will find it funny, whereas someone who deems it scandalous, repulsive, or dull won’t.
The concept of benign transgression has several limits, though. For instance, it does not fully explain how humour has contributed to humanity’s success in evolutionary terms. Wilson is a leading advocate of group selection, an evolutionary theory that contends that in social animals like ours, natural selection favours traits that increase group survival rather than merely individual survival.
Wilson and Gervais studied two types of human laughing using the idea of group selection. A Duchenne laughter is a true display of enjoyment and happiness and includes characteristics such as spontaneity, emotional, impulsive, and involuntary laughing. Contrarily, non-Duchenne laughter imitates spontaneous laughter in a calculated and unemotional way. People use it as a voluntary social tactic, such as when they grin and laugh during a conversation even though they don’t find the chat to be funny.
According to the authors, the two types of laughter have different facial expressions and neurological pathways.
The frontal cortex’s voluntary premotor regions regulate non-Duchenne laughter, which is assumed to be originating from the brain stem and limbic system. The brain stem and limbic system oversee emotions and are believed to be involved in planning movements for Duchenne laughter.
Because the brain pathways are so distinct, some types of facial paralysis only impact one or the other circuit.
Wilson and Gervais contend that the two types of laughing and the brain processes underlying them developed independently. Spontaneous laughing shares characteristics with animal vocalizations and has its origins in the games played by early primates. Controlled laughing might have developed later, along with casual banter, scorn, and mockery in social interactions.
The authors contend that in the end, human biological and cultural evolution underwent several stages before they gradually appropriated and developed primate laughing. Duchenne laughing and protohumor established the foundation for humour in all its most intricate dimensions as well as for new roles when later predecessors had more advanced cognitive and social capacities. At that point, non-Duchenne laughing and its sinister side also emerged. It became more calculated, strategic, and even offensive and derisory.
The Gelotology of Laughter
Gelotology is the study of both psychological and physiological aspects of humour and laughter. Many of its proponents support using laughter as a therapeutic tool in alternative medicine. Stanford University professor William Fry established the discipline of study. This study proposes main three forms of therapies:
- Humour and Laughter Therapy: To promote spontaneous discussion of the patient’s own amusing experiences, humour and laughter therapy involves the use of humorous resources like books, programmes, movies, or anecdotes. One can give this either privately or publicly. A clinician facilitates the process. Patients and medical providers may also use it in discussions.
- Laughter Meditation: Traditional meditation and laughter meditation are comparable. However, through a three-stage process of stretching, deliberate laughing, and a period of silent meditation, it is the laughter that concentrates the person to focus on the present. In a group environment, people sometimes do it.
- Laughter Yoga: Laughter Yoga is a workout that combines breathing, yoga, and methods of stretching with laughter. It is relatively like regular yoga. A trained person leads a series of laughter exercises over the course of 30 to 45 minutes in the structured approach. It is a complementary or preventative form of therapy.