Why laughter is contagious by Suf Alkhaldi

laughing all the time
laughing all the time

Properly, the most rewarding human habit, developed through thousands of years of evolution, is the ability to laugh. Laughing creates a state of happiness and relaxation that we all enjoy.  It is not surprising that we have comedy shows and comedy clubs as well as family gatherings, creating  a lot of laughter. Somehow when I was a teenager, I developed the reputation of laughing, getting in trouble with my teachers all the time.  In high school, my friends and I laughed all the time. Interestingly, it was not a lot of effort to laugh when we were young.  Almost any simple silly comments made us laugh. My laughing habits moved with me when I started college.  During that time, I had friends who always were a joy to laugh with.

New research has proven that laughing is contagious, similar to yawning.  People laugh more when they see someone laugh.  In an social experiment conducted in Berlin, a staged woman checking her phone video started to laugh. When she showed the video clip to her staged friend, the friend started to laugh as well. Within minutes, other people on the bus started laughing, too. In Germany, people are more serious than Americans, and they love to read their newspapers. The whole bus started laughing although the rest of the passengers did not see the woman who started laughing in the beginning.  When you laugh with people, the crowd gains power, increasing the fun and satisfaction.  People do not want to be left out.

According to Dr. Sophie Scott, a deputy director of the University College London’s Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, humans are  not the only mammals who laugh.  Primates laugh, and , in fact, rats laugh when tickled! Research shows that you are 30 times more likely to laugh when you are with someone than when you are alone.  Laughing creates a social interaction tool, similar to conversation. Laughing sends subliminal messages to your friends who are laughing with you. The message, as Dr. Scott found in her studies, tells them that you like them, and you are part of their world.  You are having a good time.  It is some kind of signal that you love your relationship with them.

Way back, when I was going through a  very difficult time in my life with multiple difficulties in school, social life, and health, my cousin visited me in the hospital one day. He offered to play chess to cheer me up. I jumped at the opportunity and played the game.  After one hour or so, it was very clear that he was going to win.  Suddenly, I started laughing so much, telling him that he should have given me a break with all these difficulties. He should have given me some sympathy by letting me win to feel better about life. When he heard that, he started laughing as well, telling me I should have told him this in advance because he did not think about it.

Until now, I find laughing such an important part of my life that I make a deliberate effort to tease people around me. Every morning, I go and talk to people around my office to tease them about what is going on in the news. Most love the interaction and laugh with me about life.

How many times do you hear a man or a woman justifying choosing a spouse by saying that she or he makes me laugh?  It is almost a rule people should place when they choose their partners in life.  The spouse should make you laugh: rule number one.  The rest of the rules like compatibility and love should come second.   When I was in graduate school,  I had a friend who made me laugh all the time. When I would make a joke, it did not take him much to pick up the joke and carry it forward —  I just love this. I would love to see him again, and I always wonder what happened to him.

Dr. Sophie Scott mentioned in her TED talk, that people engaged in conversation will start breathing at the same rate, using the same words, phrases, and even grammatical structures — if, and only if, they like each other!

This blog is usually written on Saturdays. I would love to hear from you. Please email me at Sufalkhaldi@FutureandScienceHacks.com

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