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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Humor Theories and the Physiological Benefits of Laughter 12-14

Humor Theories and the Physiological Benefits of Laughter

Humor Theories and the Physiological Benefits of Laughter is one that we encounter surprisingly often. There are many television shows based on this very form of humor— Candid Camera and the multitude of spin-offs, for example, base their comedy on people caught in foolish and embarrassing situations. Gutwirth provides a classic example of this type of humor in Chaplin’s film Limelight 




The imperturbable Keaton, who has the sole comic role in the film, goes on playing as the music sheets become scrambled, as the piano disintegrates. The comedy in this pointedly ignored disaster scene lies in his imperiousness. It makes calamity a joy for the onlooker 


We can laugh to our heart’s content.


To further explain the source of humor in this Chaplin film, Dixon states that it is based on “the exaggerated perspective and reduction of elements to their iconic or cartoon level.” In other words, the actor’s exaggerated foolishness is a source of humor,and according to the superiority theory, it is funny to viewers precisely because they are not part of the calamity; all those on the other side of the humorous event become connected over their shared experience as fellow onlookers.


Research supports these bonding functions of laughter.


Smoski and Bachorowski conducted a study of 204 pairs of friends and strangers while they played games and watched movies together. It was found that members of the friend pairs exhibited morelaughs than members of the stranger pairs while engaged in these activities, and the degree at which antiphonal laughter was produced varied significantly depending on the pairings. 

The researchers concluded that positive experiences in social settings were more related to people’s experiences of antiphonal laughter than to the funniness of events.Laughter is a method of communication that promotes affiliative and cooperative behavior, and antiphonal laughter—laughter that co-occurs or immediately follows that of a social partner— specifically, has the potential to reinforce mutually pleasurable experiences, as well as conveying emotional information about oneself, laughter elicits similar emotions in others and therefore serves abounding function.


Provine noted from observations of 1200 episodes of laughter expressed by people interacting in public places that most laughter occurred during routine comments rather than in response to joke-telling, which provides further evidence of the bonding functions of laughter.If laughter serves a social bonding function, it should be no surprise that it also serves to increase people’s likability. Reysen found that viewers rated individuals who were laughing in photographs and video clips as higher on likability than individuals who were not laughing, and it did not matter if the laughter was genuine or fake.


In addition, individuals who displayed genuine laughter in the videos and photographs were rated significantly higher on likability than were those with neutral expressions.Overall, findings from these studies indicate that laughter plays an important role in social interactions,both in terms of unifying members of a group, as the superiority theory suggests, as well as in influencing people’s perceptions of others as likable. If the physiological benefits of this situation are not immediately obvious, consider the role of social support in maintaining people’s sense of well being.


Low social support has been associated with high levels of stress and depression and negative mood hostility is a risk factor for the development of coronary heart disease (CHD) and poor survival of those with coronary artery disease (CAD).


People with negative mood hostility are likely to have low levels of social support and people who are liked by others are likely to have high levels of social support.

Loneliness has been related to unhappiness and a range of mental and physical problem.


Conversely, people who are liked tend to be happy–an emotional state that has been associated with numerous positive outcomes,including immunity and physical well-being.


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