Why do we laugh

Laughter is one of the most basic forms of communication that human beings (and even some animals, in a sense) use to communicate their current emotional or mental state to others around them at a subconscious level. This is a form of communication that is also purely occurring at a subconscious level, with consciously produced “forced laughter” registering as insincere or grossly unrealistic to listeners. On the other hand, however, this urge to respond to external stimuli can be suppressed by a conscious effort to do so – though depending on the situation this may be a difficult task to accomplish at best.

Through years of study into human laughter scenarios scientists have concluded that the causal effect of laughter is not necessarily from a funny situation and instead stems from our root desire to communicate with others in a way that allows them to interpret humor, pleasure or an otherwise positive response to a statement. This stems back to approximately 3.5 to 4 months of age when most people first develop the ability to laugh in addition to cry as one of the primary forms of communication with their parents and the world around them – well before conscious language development takes place.

The development of laughter to effectively communicate in a non-verbal manner with others should not be mistaken purely as a way of expressing humor alone, however. In fact, laughter has been seen instead to act as a form of social bonding rather than purely for individual expression. Analysis of when people laugh the most, for instance, has shown that individuals are more likely to talk to themselves while alone than laugh while alone and join in with other laughter should they be in a social situation where the majority of individuals are laughing (and as such the term “infectious laughter” has come about).

Researchers have further noted that laughter is also both used in positive and negative social bonding experiences, with people “laughing with” and “laughing at” someone or something in order to both develop a group bond as well as either force another individual into group conformity or to exclude them from the primary group – a survival instinct where large numbers matter most. This is particularly common in relaxed social atmospheres and becomes less common as people mature and “play” less, with children approximately 5 and 6 years old laughing the most with each other and adults laughing the least.