Archive for the ‘laughter’ Category

The mechanics of laughter

Posted: November 28, 2016 in laughter
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When the General Assembly of the United Nations proclaimed March 20 the International Day of Happiness, it was more than a frivolous feel-good holiday. The aim was to inspire 100 million to promote the universal goal of happiness and well-being around the world.

And while the U.N. admirably frames the day as way to talk about a more “inclusive, equitable and balanced approach” to the economic growth that can lead to more global happiness, we’re taking another approach. We’re talking laughter.

But there’s a funny thing about laughter: It’s so much more than an indication of happiness.

Laughing serves a social function. Some suggest that the first human laughter was a group ­gesture of relief at the passing of danger; and since laughter relaxes the biological fight-or-flight response, laughter may indicate trust in one’s company.

Likewise, many researchers think that laughter is connected to bonding.

“Laughter occurs when people are comfortable with one another, when they feel open and free. And the more laughter, the more bonding within the group,” says cultural anthropologist Mahadev Apte.

Behavioral neurobiologist and expert laughter researcher (that’s a thing) Robert Provine believes that laughter serves as a social signal. And indeed, other scientists concur; studies show that people are 30 times more likely to laugh in social settings than when they are alone.

The social science of laughter

Laughter is part of a universal human language. It is understood across cultures … and unlike words and syntax, which we have to learn, we are born with the capacity for giggles and tittering.

When we laugh, it happens unconsciously. We don’t think, “Hey, that’s funny, I’ll respond by laughing.” Although we can consciously be “in the moment” of our laughter, we can’t make true laughter just happen.

And while laughter isn’t always sparked by happiness, it often ends up there. Some experts believe that laughter is used to process things that are difficult to understand. Consider the nervous laughter during an intense event or the seemingly out-of-place laughter during funerals. These are the moments in life where things don’t make sense, and laughter is the behavior that evolved to respond to such times.

In these cases, maybe laughter can be best considered a defense against suffering and despair; as Psychology Today notes when addressing the topic of tittering, “If we can joke about a disappointing or traumatic event, we’ll often find ourselves feeling that what’s happened to us isn’t so bad and that we’ll be able to get through it.”

And then, happiness ensues.

Interestingly, researchers have found that a way a person laughs is a good indicator of his or her social power. People with high status tend to laugh louder and higher in pitch with fewer inhibitions, while people with lower status have laughter that is shorter, lower in pitch and more airy. The study, which was published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, found that it observers can immediately pick up on someone’s social standing by listening to how he or she laughs.


Laughter and your brain

While we know that ce­rtain regions of the brain host certain functions, researchers have found that the production of laughter happens in various parts of our gray matter. The relationship between laughter and the brain is not fully understood, but some things are known. Although emotional responses are thought to be distinct to specific sections of the brain, laughter appears to be created by a circuit that runs through numerous areas. Furthermore, the limbic system — the complex network of nerves beneath the cerebral cortex that deals with instinct and mood — seems to be central in the process of laughing.

The average human laughs 17 times a day, and aside from stress-induced laughter, most laughter is a reaction to humor. Upon a funny scenario, more than a dozen facial muscles contract and the zygomatic major muscle becomes stimulated, resulting in a smile. The epiglottis interferes with the larynx and disrupts the respiratory system just enough so that air intake becomes irregular, making the laugher gasp.

When things really get going, the tear ducts are activated, leaving many of us laughing until we cry.

Provine did a study on the sonic structure of laughter and found that all human laughter consists of basic short notes repeated every 210 milliseconds. Laughter can be comprised of “ha”s or “ho”s, he says, but not both. Provine also says that we have a “detector” that reacts to laughter by triggering other neural circuits in the brain, which ends up generating more laughter. This explains how sometimes when we start laughing, we can’t stop; why this seems to happen so frequently in church and lecture halls has yet to be determined.

A wonderful thing about laughing – aside from just the pure pleasure of it – are the health benefits bestowed by the act; it can actually change your body. Consider the following:

It can stimulate your heart, lungs, muscles and endorphin release by enhancing your oxygen intake.

It relieves your stress response, leading to feelings of increased pleasantness.

It can tame tension by stimulating circulation and helping muscle relaxation, both of which help reduce some physical symptoms of stress.

It may improve your immune system. The Mayo Clinic tells us that negative thoughts “manifest into chemical reactions that can affect your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity.” Conversely, positive thoughts release neuropeptides that help conquer stress and possibly other stress-related illness.

It potentially soothes pain by encouraging the body to produce its own natural painkillers.

And perhaps loveliest of all; laughter is infectious. The simple act of laughing can help not only you, but those around you. It’s the best kind of contagion.

http://www.mnn.com/health/fitness-well-being/stories/happiness-101-the-mechanics-of-laughter

Laughter signals social status

Posted: October 26, 2016 in laughter
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Perhaps the most memorable scene in the movie Goodfellas (1990) was not originally in the script but came out of actor Joe Pesci’s own experience as a young waiter who made the mistake of calling a mobster he served a wiseguy. “Funny how?” asks Pesci, as the mobster Tommy DeVito in the film, when Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) makes the same mistake of calling him “funny.” In the tense exchange that follows, which director Martin Scorsese allowed Pesci and Liotta to improvise before their genuinely surprised fellow mobsters, the result is not only one of Hollywood’s finest mob moments but a lesson in the role of laughter within social hierarchies.

In fact, according to a new study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, which confirms the deep human intuition of Pesci’s scene, laughter signals social status.

Human laughter is omnipresent — occurring in 95 percent of conversations by one estimate — and, as demonstrated in Goodfellas, we laugh for a number of reasons: because we are amused, to signal agreement or defuse tension, or just because others are laughing. Believed to have evolved from the “play face,” a relaxed, open-mouth display visible in chimpanzees, laughter signals that a behavior is safe, even playful. “By using laughter alongside aggressive statements,” says the study’s lead author, Christopher Oveis, a professor of economics and strategic management at the University of California, San Diego, “laughter can render an aggressive behavior less serious and more socially appropriate.”

Several studies have suggested that laughter plays a key role in social bonding and getting others to like us, and when you are lower in the status hierarchy, you are especially likely to laugh, often unconsciously, at just about anything remotely funny your boss, professor or higher-ranking mobster has to say. But it’s not just low-status individuals using “submissive” laughter to ingratiate themselves to their superiors. More dominant individuals like Tommy DeVito also use laughter as a means of expressing that dominance and negotiating rank in a way that, according to the new findings, can signal status to your peers sitting around at the bar.

As their test subjects, Oveis and his colleagues chose not a group of mobsters but 48 fraternity brothers at a public American university, whom they divided into low-status “pledges” and high-status members, and then recorded them doing what fraternity brothers do best (besides drinking) — exchanging jokes and teasing each other. They found that high-status brothers were more likely to engage in “dominant” laughter that was louder, less inhibited and — somewhat surprisingly (unless you’re Joe Pesci) — higher in pitch than the shorter, more inhibited and lower-pitched laughter exhibited by the low-status pledges.

Even more interestingly, when the researchers played audio clips of the frat-boy laughter to other undergraduate students, the participants were able to distinguish dominant and submissive laughter, not to mention accurately identify the higher- and lower-status brothers by their laughter.

But do such dynamics hold true outside the frat house? It’s a defensible sample, says Tyler Stillman, a management professor at Southern Utah University who has studied laughter extensively, but one that still differs from the general population, among other things, because “fraternities can have clearly defined hierarchies — something one might find at work but not among friends.” The study also looked exclusively at men, something Oveis tells OZY they are in the process of remedying with ongoing research into women’s laughter. They also plan to investigate how laughter works in other types of relationships, including between co-workers or romantic partners.

http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/1XJyGA/:1t1v4NMRZ:Y_JM1oh_/www.ozy.com/acumen/does-your-laugh-reveal-your-social-status/71963

comdey club

One Barcelona comedy club is experimenting with using facial recognition technology to charge patrons by the laugh.

The comedy club, Teatreneu, partnered with the advertising firm The Cyranos McCann to implement the new technology after the government hiked taxes on theater tickets, according to a BBC report. In 2012, the Spanish government raised taxes on theatrical shows from 8 to 21 percent.

Cyranos McCann installed tablets on the back of each seat that used facial recognition tech to measure how much a person enjoyed the show by tracking when each patron laughed or smiled.

Each giggle costs approximately 30 Euro cents ($0.38). However, if a patron hits the 24 Euros mark, which is about 80 laughs, the rest of their laughs are free of charge.

There’s also a social element. Get this, at the end of the show the patron can also check their laughter account and share their info on social networks. The comedy club in conjunction with their advertising partner even created a mobile app to be used as a system of payment.

While law enforcement has been developing and using facial recognition technology for quite sometime, more industries are beginning to experiment with it.

Some retailers, for example, are considering using the technology to gauge how people might feel while shopping in a certain section of a store.

The U.K. company NEC IT Solutions is even working on technology that would help retailers to identify V.I.P patrons, such as celebrities or preferred customers.

According to a recent report on EssentialRetail.com, the premium department store Harrod’s has been testing facial recognition during the last two years, albeit, the company has been primarily testing it for security reasons.

Facebook also uses facial recognition technology to suggest tags of people who are in images posted on its site.

http://www.cnbc.com/id/102078398

They say laughter is the best medicine. But what if laughter is the disease?

For a 6-year-old girl in Bolivia who suffered from uncontrollable and inappropriate bouts of giggles, laughter was a symptom of a serious brain problem. But doctors initially diagnosed the child with “misbehavior.”

“She was considered spoiled, crazy — even devil-possessed,” Dr. José Liders Burgos Zuleta, ofAdvanced Medical Image Centre, in Bolivia, said in a statement.

But Burgos Zuleta discovered that the true cause of the girl’s laughing seizures, medically called gelastic seizures, was a brain tumor.

After the girl underwent a brain scan, the doctors discovered a hamartoma, a small, benign tumor that was pressing against her brain’s temporal lobe.The doctors surgically removed the tumor, and the girl is now healthy, the doctors said.

The girl stopped having the uncontrollable attacks of laughter and now only laughs normally, the doctors said.

Gelastic seizures are a form of epilepsy that is relatively rare, said Dr. Solomon Moshé, a pediatric neurologist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. The word comes from the Greek word for laughter, “gelos.”

“It’s not necessarily ‘hahaha’ laughing,” Moshé told Live Science. “There’s no happiness in this. Some of the kids may be very scared,” he added.

The seizures are most often caused by tumors in the hypothalamus, especially in kids, although they can also come from tumors in other parts of brain, Moshé said. Although laughter is the main symptom, patients may also have outbursts of crying.

These tumors can cause growth abnormalities if they affect the pituitary gland, he said.

The surgery to remove such brain tumors used to be difficult and dangerous, but a new surgical technique developed within the last 10 years allows doctors to remove them effectively without great risk, Moshé said.

The doctors who treated the girl said their report of her case could raise awareness of the strange condition, so doctors in Latin America can diagnose the true cause of some children’s “behavioral” problems, and refer them to a neurologist.

The case report was published June 16 in the journal ecancermedicalscience.

Thanks to Michael Moore for sharing this with the It’s Interesting community.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/girls-uncontrollable-laughter-caused-by-brain-tumor/