Laughter is a universal human behavior that also exists in other animals. It serves as a social signal, facilitating connections and interactions among individuals. Similar to animals, humans use it not only to express amusement but also to communicate various emotions and intentions. This article explores the evolutionary origins of laughter, its role in human social interactions, and the different ways it is used to connect with others.
An Evolutionary Signal
Laughter is an ancient behavior shared among mammals. It originated as a “play signal” that accompanies playful interactions, signaling harmless intentions and maintaining playful engagement. Primates, such as chimpanzees, produce laughter during play, and even animals like dogs and rats have been observed to exhibit laugh-like behaviors. Laugh is a way to strengthen social bonds within groups, just as hoots and howls do in other animal species.
Human Social Interactions
In humans, laughter has evolved beyond its original play signal function. It now serves various social purposes, including signaling benign violations, smoothing social interactions, and conveying emotions beyond amusement. Laughter is not always a reliable indicator of genuine amusement; it can also be used to navigate awkward situations, misunderstandings, and even mocking jokes. The article highlights how laugh has expanded to serve a wide range of social functions in human interactions.
The Role of Laughter in Human Connections
Research suggests that people have different tendencies when it comes to laughing during social interactions. Some individuals are more prone to laughter, while others are not. Interestingly, the frequency of laughter does not significantly vary based on the conversation partner. However, people who laugh more are perceived to have more in common with their conversation partners. Laugh, in this context, serves to create a sense of similarity and connection between individuals.
The Communicative Nature
Laughter is a communicative behavior that humans have control over. People can modify the sound of their laughter based on what they want to convey. The article suggests that laugh can be categorized into three basic social functions: reward laugh (linked to playfulness), affiliation laugh (reassuring and soothing), and dominance laugh (asserting superiority). These different forms of laugh are influenced by the context of the interaction, the relationship between individuals, and the topic of conversation.
Laughter, an evolutionary behavior shared with animals, plays a crucial role in human social interactions. It has evolved from a play signal to a multifaceted social tool that helps individuals navigate complex social dynamics, connect with others, and convey various emotions and intentions. By exploring the different forms and functions of laugh, we gain insight into the ways humans use this behavior to bridge connections and foster social bonds.