Friday, April 1, 2016

I want to laugh with you until we’re two old ladies

old ladies laughing

Laughter is one of the best social glue, but it is also one of the most despised. In fact, laughter is an excellent predictor of the quality of interpersonal relationships and reveals immediately whether or not a person likes us. But it’s not always easy to find someone who makes us laugh, for a long time and also in the worst moments. If you found someone like that don’t let it go.

We laugh to connect to others

We tend to think that laughter is linked to jokes and sense of humor. We think that we laugh because something is funny. However, Robert Provine, a psychologist at the University of Maryland, found that laughter hides something else. In fact we laugh more when surrounded by friends.

In fact, his research revealed that we’re 30 times more likely to laugh at a joke in company of others. If we’re alone, the probability that a joke makes us laugh decreases, but among friends we’re more likely to laugh at things that in other contexts woudn’t be that funny.

Therefore, laughter is not a reaction, as we tend to think, but a form of communication that aims to connect with others and let them glimpse we understand them. In fact, it’s been shown that laughing is highly contagious. Thanks to brain scans we saw that our brain responds to the laughter of another person activating immediately the facial muscles that make us smile.

Laughter indicates how much interest we arouse

Mood has evolved into an indicator of our concern for others. One theory suggests that when we’re in certain social contexts, we dare little jokes to test our level of acceptance. If we are appreciated it is likely that people laugh naturally, otherwise the’ll have a forced smile or won’t smile at all, because when there’s not a real interest laughter is not spontaneous.

In fact, when we don’t know a person humor is not only a way to break the ice, but also to find out if he likes us and if we arouse interest. The same applies to already established relationships, with friends or partners, laughing together is an indicator that each member feels satisfied in company of others.

This is confirmed by a study conducted by the University of Berkeley, which found that marital relationships are more durable when both members are able to make each other laugh. These psychologists have asked one member of the couple to face a complicated problem for the other. Then they saw that, although many were arguing, when one of the members made each other laugh, not only they felt better both immediately, but also reported higher levels of satisfaction in the relationship and tended to stay together longer.

Of course, this exchange of laughters does not take place in a conscious way. Our unconscious uses humor and smile to determine the degree of interest that we awaken in the other person, and may even feel rejected.

Laughing allows us to connect emotionally to a deeper level

Laughing also helps to make new friends. In fact, it makes sure that people open up more easily. Psychologists at the University College London recruited 112 persons who didn’t know each other and showed them a video in pairs. Some couples saw a comedy, others instructions for playing golf and a third group a very relaxing nature documentary.

The psychologists evaluated how participants laughed during the vision. Afterwards participants had to write a message to the other person to let them be better known. Interestingly, people who laughed together were more willing to share personal information.

The explanation don’t lies simply in the positive experience that’s shared, but in the physiology that lurks behind the smile. In practice, when we smile we activate the production of endorphins, which is why we feel more relaxed and closer to outsiders.

Therefore, laughter makes us more open and willing to share personal information. It also helps to break down the initial block, breaking down social barriers and helping to create deeper emotional ties.

Appreciate who makes you laugh

Someone once said that “a good friend is someone who makes you laugh when you thought you wouldn’t do it anymore”. Finding a person with whom we can laugh is difficult, because it is not simply about sense of humor, but the emotional bond that develops in depth. So if you found someone like that do all you can for not let him go, because it is a real treasure.

Gray, A.W. et Al (2015). Laughter's Influence on the Intimacy of Self-Disclosure. Human Nature; 26(1):28-43. 
Keltner, D. & Bonanno, G. A. (1997) A Study of Laughter and Dissociation: Distinct Correlates of Laughter and Smiling During Bereavement. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology; 73(4): 687-702.


Keep feeding your neurons

I want to laugh with you until we’re two old ladies

Jennifer Delgado Suárez

Psicologist by profession and passion, dedicated to string words together. Discover my Books


Psychology as you never heard about...

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