Laughter Soothes the Wounded Heart


No Joke: Animals Laugh, Too

Animals may be our friends.  But they won’t pick you up at the airport.

by Robert Roy Britt

Life can be funny, and not just for humans.

Studies by various groups suggest monkeys, dogs and even rats love a good laugh.  People, meanwhile, have been laughing since before they could talk.  "Indeed, neural circuits for laughter exist in very ancient regions of the brain, and ancestral forms of play and laughter existed in other animals eons before we humans came along with our 'ha-ha-has' and verbal repartee," says Jaak Panksepp, a neuroscientist at Bowling Green State University.

When chimps play and chase each other, they pant in a manner that is strikingly like human laughter, Panksepp writes in the April 1 issue of the journal Science.  Dogs have a similar response. 

Rats chirp while they play, again in a way that resembles our giggles.  Panksepp found in a previous study that when rats are playfully tickled, they chirp and bond socially with their human tickler.  And they seem to like it, seeking to be tickled more.

Apparently joyful rats also preferred to hang out with other chirpers.

Laughter in humans starts young, another clue that it's a deep-seated brain function.  "Young children, whose semantic sense of humour is marginal, laugh and shriek abundantly in the midst of their other rough-and-tumble activities," Panksepp notes.

Importantly, various recent studies on the topic suggest that laughter in animals typically involves similar play chasing.  Could be that verbal jokes tickle ancient, playful circuits in our brains.  More study is needed to figure out whether animals are really laughing.  The results could explain why humans like to joke around. 

Panksepp speculates it might even lead to the development of treatments for laughter's dark side: depression.

Meanwhile, there's the question of what's so darn funny in the animal world.  Although no one has investigated the possibility of rat humour, if it exists, it is likely to be heavily laced with slapstick," Panksepp figures.  "Even if adult rodents have no well-developed cognitive sense of humour, young rats have a marvellous sense of fun."

Science has traditionally deemed animals incapable of joy and woe.  Panksepp's response: "Although some still regard laughter as a uniquely human trait, honed in the Pleistocene, the joke’s on them."


Source: 31 March 2005 laughing chimp

She's Laughing, He's Not

by Yuriy Zilinsky Source: via pixdaus

A guy enters bar carrying an alligator.  Says to the patrons, "Here’s a deal.  I'll open this alligator's mouth and place my genitals inside.  The gator will close his mouth for one minute, then open it, and I'll remove my unit unscathed.  If it works, everyone buys me drinks."  The crowd agrees.  The guy drops his pants and puts his privates in the gator's mouth.  Gator closes mouth.  After a minute, the guy grabs a beer bottle and bangs the gator on the top of its head.  The gator opens wide, and he removes his genitals unscathed.  Everyone buys him drinks.  Then he says: "I'll pay anyone $100 who's willing to give it a try."  After a while, a hand goes up in the back of the bar.  It's a woman.  "I'll give it a try," she says, "but you have to promise not to hit me on the head with the beer bottle."

Not Funny, But LOL Anyway

by Sarah Davidson

Laughter soothes the wounded heart, lightens an awkward moment and, according to recent research, places an emotional emphasis on the words we say.  Even better, when someone laughs with us, relationships grow.

"Current research on laughter in general shows it's more about communicating emotion than about humour," says Carl Marci, lead author of a paper in the October issue of the Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases.  The study measured laughter in therapy sessions.  Patients regularly laughed at themselves, which suggests "the patient who is laughing is trying to say more than has been expressed verbally to the therapist," Marci said.  "Laughter is an indication that the subject is emotionally charged."  Therapists should explore the meaning of what is said immediately preceding laughter, Marci advises.

Laughter can be contagious, especially when the therapist pays attention, and is willing to laugh with their patient, the study revealed.  A laughing therapist is physically aroused, which in turn arouses the patient further.  This helps build a rapport between the two.  Ultimately researchers hope to learn if there are long term connections between laughter and improved mental health outside therapy sessions, scientifically proving that laughter really is the best medicine.

Source: 11 November, 2004

Poking Fun: Why People Laugh

The true story of how your wife's stalker rang her to discuss killing you isn't supposed to provoke mirth.  But when John Morreall, of the College of William and Mary in Virginia, related the events last week to a group of scholars in Tuebingen in Germany, they were in stitches as he divulged the details of how his wife tried to dissuade the confused young man by pleading that her mortgage was too large to pay without her husband's help.

So why did they laugh?  Dr Morreall's thesis is that laughter, incapacitating as it can be, is a convincing signal that the danger has passed.  The reaction of the psychologists, linguists, philosophers and professional clowns attending the Fifth International Summer School on Humour and Laughter illustrates his point.  Dr Morreall survived to tell the tale and so had an easy time making it sound funny.

One description of how laughter is provoked is the incongruity theory developed by Victor Raskin of Purdue University and Salvatore Attardo of Youngstown State University, both in America.  This theory says that all written jokes and many other humorous situations are based on an incongruity - something that is not quite right.  In many jokes, the teller sets up the story with this incongruity present and the punch line then resolves it, in a way people do not expect.  Alternatively, the very last words of the story may introduce the absurdity and leave the listeners with the task of reconciling it.  For instance, many people find it funny that a conference on humour could take place in Germany.

Why do people laugh at all?  What is the point of it?  Laughter is very contagious and this suggests that it may have become a part of human behaviour because it promotes social bonding.  When a group of people laughs, the message seems to be "relax, you are among friends."

Indeed, humour is one way of dealing with the fact that humans are "excrement-producing poets and imperfect lovers," says Appletree Rodden of the University of Tuebingen.  He sees religion and humour as different, and perhaps competing, ways for people to accept death and the general unsatisfactoriness of the world.  Perhaps that is why, as Dr Morreall calculates in a forthcoming article in the journal Humor, 95% of the writings that he sampled from important Christian scholars through the centuries disapproved of humour, linking it to insincerity and idleness.

Fear of idleness is why many managers discourage laughter during office hours, Dr Morreall notes.  This is foolish, he claims.  Laughter or its absence may be the best clue a manager has about the work environment and the mood of employees.

Indeed, another theory of why people laugh - the superiority theory - says that people laugh to assert that they are on a level equal to or higher than those around them.  Research has shown that bosses tend to crack more jokes than do their employees.  Women laugh much more in the presence of men, and men generally tell more jokes in the presence of women.  Men have even been shown to laugh much more quietly around women, while laughing louder when in a group of men.

But laughter does not unite us all.  There are those who have a pathological fear that others will laugh at them.  Sufferers avoid situations where there will be laughter, which means most places where people meet.  Willibald Ruch of Zurich University surveyed 1,000 Germans and asked them whether they thought they were the butts of jokes and found that almost 10% felt this way.  These people also tended to classify taped laughter as jeering.  Future research will focus on the hypothesis that there is something seriously wrong with their sense of humour.

Source: 4 Aug 2005 | Tuebingen, Germany from The Economist print edition

This Is for Your Health

Two guys are walking down the street when a mugger approaches them and demands their money. They both grudgingly pull out their wallets and begin taking out their cash.  Just then one guy turns to the other and hands him a bill.  "Here’s that $20 I owe you," he says.

A car hits a man.  The paramedic rushes over and says, "Are you comfortable?"  The guy says: "Well, I make a good living."

A guy meets a hooker in a bar.  She says, "This is your lucky night.  I’ve got a special game for you.  I’ll do absolutely anything you want for $300, as long as you can say it in 3 words."  The guy replies, "Hey, why not?"  He pull his wallet out of his pocket, and one at a time lays 3 hundred-dollar bills on the bar, and says, slowly: ""

On a passenger flight, the pilot comes over the public address system as usual and to greet the passengers.  He tells them at what altitude they’ll be flying, the expected arrival time, and a bit about the weather, and advises them to relax and have a good flight.  Then, forgetting to turn off the microphone, he says to his co-pilot, "What would relax me right now is a cup of coffee and a blowjob."  All the passengers hear it.  As a stewardess immediately begins to run toward the cockpit to tell the pilot of his slip-up, one of the passengers stops her and says, "Don’t forget the coffee!"

Sid and Irv are business partners.  They make a deal that whichever one dies first will contact the living one from the afterlife.  So Irv dies.  Sid doesn't hear from him for about a year, figures there is no afterlife.  Then one day he gets a call.  It's Irv.  "So there is an afterlife!  What's it like?" Sid asks.  "Well, I sleep very late.  I get up, have a big breakfast.  Then I have sex, lots of sex.  Then I go back sleep, but I get up for lunch, have a big lunch.  Have some more sex.  Take a nap.  Huge dinner.  More sex.  Go to sleep, and wake up the next day."  "Oh, my god," says Sid, "So that's what heaven is like!"  "Oh no," says Irv.  "I'm not in heaven.  I'm a bear in Yellowstone Park."

I can’t think of anything worse after a night of drinking than waking up next to someone and not being able to remember their name, or how you met, or why they’re dead.

Customer: "I've been doing risk analysis by hand for 5 years, and we finally got your program so we could do it automatically - but there's a bug in it.  The answers come out differently each time."

Tech Support: "Sir, are you aware that our program uses Monte-Carlo analysis?"

Customer: "Of course I am.  That's why I bought it."

Tech Support: "Sir, do you know what Monte-Carlo analysis does?"

Customer: "Don't get rude with me, of course I do."

Tech Support: "Put briefly, sir, it runs through your project several times, throwing random delays in, and at the end it averages out the results."

Customer: "I know all that - what I want to know is why it keeps giving me different answers every time I run it."

A Chicago economist and a friend were walking along the street when they spotted a $20 bill.  The economist kept walking.  The friend turned to him and asked "aren't you going to pick that up?"  "Of course not," said the economist.  "It's obviously a fake.  If it was real, someone would have already picked it up."

How many Chicago economists does it take to change a light bulb?  None.  If the light bulb needed changing, the market would have already done it.  And, allegedly true - Truman once said he wanted to find an economics adviser with one hand.  When asked why, he said it was so he couldn't say "...but on the other hand..."

To see articles on humour plus cartoons and jokes, clicking the "Up" button below takes you to the Table of Contents for this Humour section.

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