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Laughter is often considered to be the product of humour. However, laughter is a social emotion, occurring most often in interactions, where it is associated with bonding, agreement, affection, and emotional regulation. Laughter is underpinned by complex neural systems, allowing it to be used flexibly. In humans and chimpanzees, social (voluntary) laughter is distinctly different from evoked (involuntary) laughter, a distinction which is also seen in brain imaging studies of laughter.
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The social life of laughter
Sophie Scott, Nadine Lavan, Sinead Chen, and Carolyn McGettigan
Laughter is often considered to be the product of humour. However laughter is a social emotion,
occurring most often in interactions, where it is associated with bonding, agreement, affection and
emotional regulation. Laughter is underpinned by complex neural systems, allowing it to be used
flexibly: in humans and chimpanzees, social (voluntary) laughter is distinctly different from
evoked (involuntary) laughter, a distinction which is also seen in brain imaging studies of
Emotion; voice; conversation; laughter; motor control
When do we laugh, and why?
Human beings are immersed in laughter: it is a pervasive non-verbal expression of emotion
(1,2), which is universally recognised (3), and is more like a different way of breathing than
a way of speaking (4) (see Box One). Laughter is mediated strongly by social context: we
are 30 times more likely to laugh if we are with someone else than if we are on our own (1,
2), and we laugh most of we can see and hear someone (even if this is via a computer)
compared to voice or text interactions (5). Laughter is also highly behaviourally contagious,
and can occur when primed solely by another’s laughter (2). Observational studies have
shown that laughter is commonly found in conversations, where it occurs at the rate of
around 5 laughs per 10 minutes of conversation (6). Strikingly, this is a much higher rate
than the amount of laughter that people self-report (6). Furthermore, if we are asked about
when we laugh, we report that we laugh at jokes and humour (1, 2): however, observational
studies show that not only does most laughter occur in conversations, within those
conversations most laughter is associated with statements and comments, rather than jokes
(1, 2, 6). Furthermore, in conversation, the person who laughs most frequently is the person
who has just spoken, indicating that laughter is frequently not a reaction to someone else’s
utterance (6). Much conversational laughter, therefore, is an intentional, communicative act.
For example, conversational laughter in both spoken and signed conversations is often timed
to occur at the end of utterances (1): this commonality across modalities underlines the
voluntary aspect of much of laughter production, since (at least in theory) a person could
simultaneously sign and laugh if she wished to.
Consistent with this emphasis on the social roles of laughter, researchers have suggested that
there are two different kinds of laughter, and that these are differentiated by how they are
elicited: the laughter can be either driven by outside events (reactive, involuntary laughter)
or be associated with a more intentional communicative act - i.e. more controlled, deliberate
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Trends Cogn Sci. 2014 December ; 18(12): 618–620. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2014.09.002.
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laughter (7). This has been overtly compared to a distinction between spontaneous and
controlled smiling (7). Work with chimpanzees has revealed a similar distinction between
laughter which is generated in reaction to being tickled, versus laughter which is produced
during play (with the aim of making play last longer (8)).
Neural systems involved in the perception and production of laughter
The neural control of vocalization in humans is considered to involve two cortical systems
acting on midbrain and brainstem motor structures, where lateral premotor and motor sites
control the production of learned vocalizations such as speech and song, and a midline
system involving the anterior cingulate and supplementary motor area is associated with the
production of involuntary vocalizations, such as expressions of emotion (Jurgens, 2002).
Within this framework of voluntary and involuntary vocalizations, Wild et al. (2003) (10)
propose a model of laughter production, largely based on studies of pathological laughter, in
which they identify a coordinating centre for laughter in the brainstem comprising the
periaqueductal grey (PAG) and the upper reticular formation in the control of changes in
facial expressions, respiration, and vocalization. These structures are proposed to receive
excitatory inputs from cortical sites in the basal temporal and frontal lobes, as well as from
structures in the limbic system including the hypothalamus and basal ganglia. Here, the
lateral premotor cortices are implicated not in the basic production of laughter, but rather in
the suppression and regulation of spontaneous laughter vocalizations. In line with this view,
a recent neuroimaging study (11) found that the voluntary suppression of laughter during
tickling involved greater BOLD responses in lateral sensorimotor cortex compared with
when the participants were free to laugh when tickled (and when they voluntarily produced
laughter without tactile stimulation). Another key difference between voluntary and
(relatively) involuntary laughter in this study was a greater engagement of the hypothalamus
during tickling laughter (compared with voluntary or suppressed laughter), and an additional
correlation between activation in the PAG with the frequency of laughter episodes during
tickling. Both of these findings suggest a central involvement of these structures in the
production of basic, more automatic, expressions of positive experience.
Studies of the neural correlates of laughter perception have identified sensitivity to the social
significance of laughter signals. In a study of passive listening to emotional vocalizations
(12), sites on the lateral premotor and primary motor cortices showed a correlation with
valence, being greater to positive sounds (laughter and cheers of triumph) and lower for
negative sounds (screams of fear and expressions of disgust). This could reflect the
contagiousness of laughter and the greater tendency for positive vocalizations and associated
facial movements to occur in the context of social groups. However, more recent work (13)
showed that direct comparisons of the neural responses to voluntary and involuntary
laughter recordings gave no difference in motor cortex activation. Rather, the degree of
engagement of sensorimotor cortices when listening to both types of laughter was related to
individual differences in participants’ accuracy at classifying voluntary and involuntary
laughs and “posed” and “real”, respectively. This could be evidence that the listener engages
in some level of sensorimotor simulation as a mechanism for evaluating the social meaning
of heard vocalizations, rather than exhibiting a basic sound-to-action response. In the same
study, we observed preferential responses to involuntary laughter in bilateral auditory
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cortex, while responses to voluntary laughs were greater in ventromedial prefrontal cortex.
This profile of auditory cortex engagement suggests that, on the one hand, there are acoustic
hallmarks that automatically register the presence of intense, “real” laughter in the brain of
the listener. In contrast, the absence or reduced prominence of such cues in voluntary laughs
engages mentalizing strategies in medial prefrontal cortex, to support the interpretation of
why the laugh has been produced, and what it means. Figure 1 summarizes the key sites
identified in studies of the production and perception of laughter.
Taking laughter seriously
Laughter is more than a positive emotional expression: its social use may extend to the
management of affective states within interactions. Laughter is one of the positive emotional
expressions which is expressly linked to a physiological reduction in the stressful reactions
to negative emotions (e.g. fear, anger, disgust), in a way which may be more effective than
other ways of managing negative emotions (e.g. suppression) (14, 15). Positive emotional
expressions have been associated with the down-regulation of negative emotions in
conversations between couples (14, 15): couples who reported the highest levels of marital
satisfaction also showed the most ‘skillful’ use of positive affect (e.g. laughter) to regulate
negative emotions during a difficult conversation (15). Laughter is therefore not simply a
common emotional vocalization, which we use to establish and maintain social bonds (1,2):
laughter may also simultaneously function as an essential behaviour for helping to ‘de-
escalate’ negative emotional experience, with a positive role in both the short term affective
state of the interaction, and the longer term state of relationships. Understanding the
behavioural and neurobiological bases of laughter will mean more than thinking about jokes:
it could provide a vital link between human language, relationships and emotional states.
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Box One
Breathing, speaking and laughing
Upper panel shows oscillograms for speech and laughter, middle panel shows
spectrograms for laughter and speech, lower panel shows chest expansion dynamics for
metabolic breathing, laughing and speaking. The time scale on the x axis is the same for
each (breathing, laughing and speaking). Both speaking and laughing are distinctly
different from metabolic breathing, in terms of chest wall movements. Laughter is
characterized by very rapid contractions of the intercostal muscles, resulting in large
exhalations followed by individual bursts of laughter: the spectral modulation of laughter
by supra-larangeal structures is minimal. Speech shows a fine pattern of intercostal
muscle movements, which are used to maintain constant sub-glottal pressure at the larynx
and to provide pitch and rhythm to the speech. Unlike laughter, speech also shows
considerable spectral complexity reflecting movements of the supra-laryngeal
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Figure 1. Voluntary and involuntary laughter in the brain
The coordination of human laughter involves periaqueductal gray and the reticular formation
with inputs from cortex, the basal ganglia and the hypothalamus [10]. The hypothalamus is
more active during reactive laughter than voluntary laughter [11]. Motor and premotor
cortices are involved in the inhibition of the brainstem laughter centres, and are more active
when suppressing laughter than when producing it [11]. Laughter perception involves
premotor cortex and SMA [12], while auditory and mentalizing regions showed differential
engagement by involuntary and voluntary laughter [13].
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... As such, laughter may involve innate mechanisms rather than learned vocal behaviour [5]. Laughter-like vocalizations are evoked not only in an emotional situation or by tickling, but also, and more frequently, in a social context in which laughter serves as a means of communication, as in humans [6,7] the great apes and rats [4,8]. While the production of speech requires the voluntary control of articulators, such as the tongue, the jaw and the soft palate, that of laughter depends solely on changes in breath control, subglottal pressure and laryngeal tension, which lead to a stereotypical pattern of respiration that is associated with rhythmic 'ha, ha'-like sounds. ...
... They are of particular relevance in distinguishing between the motor control of a postulated voluntary and involuntary pathway of vocalization. While speech can be produced only when the voluntary pathway is engaged, laughter depends greatly on the involuntary one, especially when it is associated with an emotional signal stimulating mirth and is not strategically employed for communication [7,23,24]. Studies involving monkeys reveal these pathways to be largely independent of each other [25,26]. The voluntary pathway controls neurons in the brainstem, which, via the motor cortex, innervate motor effectors either directly or indirectly through the reticular formation [27,28]. ...
... On the basis of available data in humans, a separation of these two pathways is less apparent. It has been postulated that during laughter the two pathways interact at the level of either the ( pre)-supplementary motor area [7,22], the anterior cingulate gyrus [30,31] or the primary motor cortex [15,31], possibly via inhibitory or modulatory processes [7,15]. However, subcortical regions have not been discussed concerning their interaction. ...
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Who has not experienced that sensation of losing the power of speech owing to an involuntary bout of laughter? An investigation of this phenomenon affords an insight into the neuronal processes that underlie laughter. In our functional magnetic resonance imaging study, participants were made to laugh by tickling in a first condition; in a second one they were requested to produce vocal utterances under the provocation of laughter by tickling. This investigation reveals increased neuronal activity in the sensorimotor cortex, the anterior cingulate gyrus, the insula, the nucleus accumbens, the hypothalamus and the periaqueductal grey for both conditions, thereby replicating the results of previous studies on ticklish laughter. However, further analysis indicates the activity in the emotion-associated regions to be lower when tickling is accompanied by voluntary vocalization. Here, a typical pattern of activation is identified, including the primary sensory cortex, a ventral area of the anterior insula and the ventral tegmental field, to which belongs to the nucleus ambiguus, namely, the common effector organ for voluntary and involuntary vocalizations. During the conflictual voluntary-vocalization versus laughter experience, the laughter-triggering network appears to rely heavily on a sensory and a deep interoceptive analysis, as well as on motor effectors in the brainstem. This article is part of the theme issue ‘Cracking the laugh code: laughter through the lens of biology, psychology and neuroscience’.
... Entre las emociones positivas, la risa puede verse como la única expresión omnipresente de alegría, observable en todas las culturas, especies y generaciones que surge en los seres humanos alrededor del cuarto mes de vida (Ruch y Ekman, 2001). Además, la risa promueve fuertemente la vinculación y facilita las interacciones sociales (Martin y Lefcourt, 1983, 2004Scott et al., 2014). En los seres humanos, la risa también se puede utilizar como un mecanismo de afrontamiento (coping mechanism), para aliviar el estrés y anular momentáneamente las emociones negativas. ...
... La percepción de la risa por sí sola no activa una red neuronal tan vasta y, lo que es más importante, no recluta al sistema dopaminérgico responsable de la recompensa y la motivación (Lavan et al., 2016;McGettigan et al., 2015;Wild et al., 2015;Wild et al., 2003), del cual se sabe que mejora el aprendizaje y la memoria (Gruber et al., 2014(Gruber et al., , 2016Kang et al., 2009;Patil et al., 2017). La risa se sustenta en sistemas neuronales complejos, lo que permite la existencia de dos formas distintas de risa dependiendo de la manera en que se provoca: (1) involuntariamente, en respuesta a eventos externos, lo que se conoce como risa espontánea o real, y (2) voluntariamente, en situaciones sociales, con el objetivo deliberado de crear lazos afectivos, lo que ha sido denominado risa social (Gervais y Wilson, 2005;Scott et al., 2014). En los primeros estudios científicos de la risa, los neurólogos se centraron en sus variantes patológicas (Brissaud, 1895;Nothnagel, 1889;Poeck, 1969). ...
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Las emociones positivas son valoradas y buscadas en nuestra vida diaria, pero aún no se comprende bien el rol funcional que juegan en la cognición humana. A pesar de ciertas similitudes, las emociones positivas y negativas parecen depender de vías neuronales distintas y, por tanto, podrían influir de manera diferente en funciones cognitivas como la memoria. En este artículo de revisión, se presentan los efectos cognitivos y los fundamentos neuronales de las emociones positivas, centrándose en las especificidades de las emociones inducidas por el humor. Posteriormente, se describe la influencia beneficiosa del humor sobre la memoria y se analizan los posibles mecanismos neuronales a través de los cuales el humor puede mejorar la memoria en el cerebro humano.
... First, it will be highlighted how the two simulationist systems depend on two distinct motor pathways, i.e., an emotional and a volitional one. Indeed, according to a wellaccepted "dual pathway" account of the neural control of the human voice (Jürgens, 2009), the production of emotional and nonemotional laughter is controlled by two independent networks, respectively, housed in emotional and volitional motor regions (Lauterbach et al., 2013;Scott et al., 2014;Gerbella et al., 2021;Zauli et al., 2022). Second, it will be shown that both emotional and volitional motor systems can be activated during the processing of others' emotional expressions, albeit their recruitment is triggered by different tasks and for different reasons. ...
... According to the "dual pathway" account of the neural control of the human voice, laughter production is also controlled by a voluntary network, originating from the ventral part of the motor system (housing the motor representations of mouth actions) and controlling the volitional production and modulation of laughter (Lauterbach et al., 2013;Scott et al., 2014;Gerbella et al., 2021). Imaging studies showed that this region is active during the observation (Jabbi et al., 2008) and the voluntary imitation of smiles (Leslie et al., 2004;Hennenlotter et al., 2005;van der Gaag et al., 2007) and during the production of voluntary, involuntary, and inhibited laughter (Wattendorf et al., 2013). ...
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Here it will be advanced the hypothesis that the ability to interact with the emotions displayed by co-specifics depends on two distinct simulationist systems, i.e., “motor simulation” and “emotional mirroring.” Although these systems are typically conceived as alternative and mutually exclusive models, the first aim of this chapter is to present empirical evidence demonstrating that they are coexisting systems that differ in terms of input, output, neural circuitry, and cognitive function. The former exploits motor knowledge to assist the visual system during the identification of potentially ambiguous emotional stimuli, while the latter conveys emotional contagion and social bonding. To clarify the functional difference between the two systems, it will be made reference to the notion of automatic abduction, as it has been originally described in the Peircean semiotic tradition. It will be argued that only “motor simulation” – but not “emotional mirroring” – can be thought of as part of an automatic sensorimotor abduction, that is, a sensorimotor inferential process which allows the exploitation of motor knowledge to assist the visual system during the identification of potentially ambiguous emotional stimuli. Instances of simulations triggered by “motor simulation” and “emotional mirroring” will be considered, respectively, in terms of motor and affective habits. The former will be characterized as ignorance-based kind of habits, whereas the latter will be defined as knowledge-based habits. Finally, the mechanism of “motor simulation” will be discussed in the light of the predictive processing framework.
... Humans and non-human primates use numerous vocalizations for maintaining social bonds and proximity with their conspecifics. Laughter is a universally recognized positive social expression occurring frequently in human social interactions [1,2] and it is used for promoting social bonding [2,3]. Numerous other primates [4,5] and rodents [6] also use laughter-like vocalizations for conveying prosocial motivation. ...
... Humans and non-human primates use numerous vocalizations for maintaining social bonds and proximity with their conspecifics. Laughter is a universally recognized positive social expression occurring frequently in human social interactions [1,2] and it is used for promoting social bonding [2,3]. Numerous other primates [4,5] and rodents [6] also use laughter-like vocalizations for conveying prosocial motivation. ...
Full-text available
Laughter is a contagious prosocial signal that conveys bonding motivation; adult crying conversely communicates desire for social proximity by signalling distress. Endogenous mu-opioid receptors (MORs) modulate sociability in humans and non-human primates. In this combined PET–fMRI study ( n = 17), we tested whether central MOR tone is associated with regional brain responses to social signals of laughter and crying. MOR availability was measured with positron emission tomography (PET) using the high-affinity agonist radioligand [ ¹¹ C]carfentanil. Haemodynamic responses to social laughter and crying vocalizations were measured using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Social laughter evoked activation in the auditory cortex, insula, cingulate cortex, amygdala, primary and secondary somatosensory cortex, and primary and secondary motor cortex; crying sounds led to more restricted activation in the auditory cortex and nearby areas. MOR availability was negatively correlated with the haemodynamic responses to social laughter in the primary and secondary somatosensory cortex, primary and secondary motor cortex, posterior insula, posterior cingulate cortex, precuneus, cuneus, temporal gyri and lingual gyrus. For crying-evoked activations, MOR availability was negatively correlated with medial and lateral prefrontal haemodynamic responses. Altogether our findings highlight the role of the MOR system in modulating acute brain responses to both positive and negative social signals. This article is part of the theme issue ‘Cracking the laugh code: laughter through the lens of biology, psychology and neuroscience’.
... So, can laughter just be called a physical stretch? The seriousness of laughter extends from societal insights to the control of emotional states (Scott et al., 2014). When laughing, all bodily, mental, and spiritual systems are aroused (Poncela & Maria, 2019). ...
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In this research, we aimed to examine and understand the experiences of the participants regarding the teaching practice courses held with distance education during the pandemic. The participants of the research are all eight students who took teaching practice courses in the primary school education program of a university in Turkey in the 2020-2021 academic year. The research was designed as basic qualitative research. Research data were obtained from semi-structured interviews conducted via video call individually with the participants. Content analysis was used for data analysis. Results show that participants experienced problems due to the lack of interaction with the primary school students and practice teachers. In the problems that arise in the distance education process; we can say that the lack of infrastructure, knowledge and experience of the stakeholders are effective. It is necessary to eliminate the infrastructure problems related to distance education and to provide information and experience to the stakeholders by integrating distance education into formal education processes. In this way, we can be prepared for the next pandemics or similar extraordinary situations.
... The voice is not an "autonomous production, but a combination of the inner child's voice and society's context (Bucknall, 2013, p.72). It may take the shape of laughter to indicate an active indirect and non-spoken language used by the students (Nugent, 2021) and operate as a crucial supporter in developing and enhancing their dialogue (Scott et al., 2014). Silence is another form which may represent a cultural context or a strategic/technique code used to direct the conversation's continuity. ...
Research Proposal
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The study attempts to comprehend the correlation between adolescent students' behaviours and their created peer culture by connecting the disruptive behaviour in the class with the impact of the peer groups' culture. An Interdisciplinary approach is followed to merge the phycological and sociological views in an interpretive-cultural approach. The research relied on Corsaro's Interpretive Model of Socialization, where Peer's Routines and Secondary Adjustment concepts influenced the research paradigm and directed the methods to focus ‘in’ and ‘with’ the students. It promotes finding new applications for Childhood and Youth Studies for traditional research cases. Keywords: children, peer culture, adolescent, behaviour, student
... Our study involving emotional verbal stimuli demonstrated that CP, representing human affairs, has earlier saliency than AP, concerning nature. Comical elements of human affairs naturally produce laughter, which is considered a social emotion (Scott et al., 2014). The intense engagement in the harmless human ugliness of CP is consistent with the idea that comical verbal materials act as an essential social signal and have evolved for human adaptation to novel environments (Fogarty & Kandler, 2020). ...
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We investigated pupillary responses to the world's shortest fixed verses, Japanese haiku as aesthetic poetry (AP) and senryu as comic poetry (CP), in comparison with non-poetry control stimuli (NP) comprised of slogans that had the same rhythm patterns. Native Japanese speakers without literary training listened to these stimuli while we recorded their pupil diameters. We found that participants' pupils were significantly dilated for CP compared to NP in an early time window. While AP also evoked larger dilations than NP, the latency for AP-related pupil dilation was relatively long. Thus, lay people experience quick and intense arousal in response to funny and humorous words, while aesthetic properties of words may also elicit intense but slower changes in listeners' arousal levels, presumably because they evoke more implicit and subtle emotional effects. This study is the first to provide evidence that poetic language elicits human pupillary dilation. A better understanding of the cognitive and neural substrates for the sensitive awareness of pleasures expressed via poetic language will provide insights for improving mental and physical health. Hence, pupillometry can act as a useful convenient measurement to delineate the sympathetic activation of emotional contexts via language.
Forest bathing as a recreation activity may connect to experiences of social support, activity attachment, and purpose in life (PIL) among older adults. However, it is unclear whether activity attachment mediates the relationship between social support and PIL experienced by older forest bathers. To address this area of limited research, we examined such a mediated relationship in this population. In total, 292 older forest bathers completed a survey including measures of social support, activity attachment, and PIL. We performed structural equation modeling to analyze data. Results indicated that high levels of social support predicted high levels of activity attachment; high levels of activity attachment predicted high levels of PIL; and high levels of social support predicted high levels of PIL. Therefore, it is advantageous to create contexts and situations conducive for forest bathing to develop social support when practitioners attempt to help older adults foster activity attachment and PIL.
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Emotion regulation is generally thought to be a critical ingredient for successful interpersonal relationships. Ironically, few studies have investigated the link between how well spouses regulate emotion and how satisfied they are with their marriages. We utilized data from a 13-year, 3-wave longitudinal study of middle-aged (40-50 years old) and older (60-70 years old) long-term married couples, focusing on the associations between downregulation of negative emotion (measured during discussions of an area of marital conflict at Wave 1) and marital satisfaction (measured at all 3 waves). Downregulation of negative emotion was assessed by determining how quickly spouses reduced signs of negative emotion (in emotional experience, emotional behavior, and physiological arousal) after negative emotion events. Data were analyzed using actor-partner interdependence modeling. Findings showed that (a) greater downregulation of wives' negative experience and behavior predicted greater marital satisfaction for wives and husbands concurrently and (b) greater downregulation of wives' negative behavior predicted increases in wives' marital satisfaction longitudinally. Wives' use of constructive communication (measured between Waves 1 and 2) mediated the longitudinal associations. These results show the benefits of wives' downregulation of negative emotion during conflict for marital satisfaction and point to wives' constructive communication as a mediating pathway. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved).
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Humans express laughter differently depending on the context: polite titters of agreement are very different from explosions of mirth. Using functional MRI, we explored the neural responses during passive listening to authentic amusement laughter and controlled, voluntary laughter. We found greater activity in anterior medial prefrontal cortex (amPFC) to the deliberate, Emitted Laughs, suggesting an obligatory attempt to determine others' mental states when laughter is perceived as less genuine. In contrast, passive perception of authentic Evoked Laughs was associated with greater activity in bilateral superior temporal gyri. An individual differences analysis found that greater accuracy on a post hoc test of authenticity judgments of laughter predicted the magnitude of passive listening responses to laughter in amPFC, as well as several regions in sensorimotor cortex (in line with simulation accounts of emotion perception). These medial prefrontal and sensorimotor sites showed enhanced positive connectivity with cortical and subcortical regions during listening to involuntary laughter, indicating a complex set of interacting systems supporting the automatic emotional evaluation of heard vocalizations.
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Humans have the ability to replicate the emotional expressions of others even when they undergo different emotions. Such distinct responses of expressions, especially positive expressions, play a central role in everyday social communication of humans and may give the responding individuals important advantages in cooperation and communication. The present work examined laughter in chimpanzees to test whether nonhuman primates also use their expressions in such distinct ways. The approach was first to examine the form and occurrence of laugh replications (laughter after the laughter of others) and spontaneous laughter of chimpanzees during social play and then to test whether their laugh replications represented laugh-elicited laugh responses (laughter triggered by the laughter of others) by using a quantitative method designed to measure responses in natural social settings. The results of this study indicated that chimpanzees produce laugh-elicited laughter that is distinct in form and occurrence from their spontaneous laughter. These findings provide the first empirical evidence that nonhuman primates have the ability to replicate the expressions of others by producing expressions that differ in their underlying emotions and social implications. The data further showed that the laugh-elicited laugh responses of the subjects were closely linked to play maintenance, suggesting that chimpanzees might gain important cooperative and communicative advantages by responding with laughter to the laughter of their social partners. Notably, some chimpanzee groups of this study responded more with laughter than others, an outcome that provides empirical support of a socialization of expressions in great apes similar to that of humans.
Media naturalness theory and social information processing theory make competing predictions regarding the effectiveness of different modes of communication at creating and maintaining emotionally intense social relationships. We explored how the duration of interaction and the form of laughter influenced happiness in communication modes with different levels of media naturalness. Forty-one participants completed a 14-day contact diary, recording interactions across face-to-face, Skype, telephone, instant messaging, texting, and e-mail/social network sites. Increases in duration of interaction positively predicted happiness only for face-to-face interactions, offering partial support for the media naturalness hypothesis. Laughter positively predicted happiness in all but one of the communication modes, with real and symbolic laughter having similar effects, a result consistent with the social information processing theory. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Laughter is an instinctive, contagious, stereotyped, unconsciously controlled, social play vocalization that is unusual in solitary settings. Laughter punctuates speech and is not typically humor related, speakers often laugh more often than their audience, and mate speakers are the best laugh getters. Laughter evolved from the labored breathing of physical play, with the characteristic "pant-pant" laugh, of chimpanzees and derivative "ha-ha" of humans signaling ("ritualizing") its rowdy origin. Laughter reveals that breath control is why humans cart speak and chimpanzees cannot. The evolution of bipedality in human ancestors freed the thorax of its support role in quadrupedal locomotion, a critical step in uncoupling breathing from running, providing humans with the flexible breath control necessary for speech and our characteristic laugh. Tickle, an ancient laughter stimulus, is a means of communication between preverbal infants and mothers, and between friends, family, and lovers. Because you cannot tickle yourself, tickle involves a neurological self/nonself discrimination, providing the mostprimitive social scenario.
Although human laughter mainly occurs in social contexts, most studies have dealt with laughter evoked by media. In our study, we investigated conversational laughter. Our results show that laughter is much more frequent than has been described previously by self-report studies. Contrary to the common view that laughter is elicited by external stimuli, participants frequently laughed after their own verbal utterances. We thus suggest that laughter in conversation may primarily serve to regulate the flow of interaction and to mitigate the meaning of the preceding utterance. Conversational laughter bouts consisted of a smaller number of laughter elements and had longer interval durations than laughter bouts elicited by media. These parameters also varied with conversational context. The high intraindividual variability in the acoustic parameters of laughter, which greatly exceeded the parameter variability between subjects, may thus be a result of the laughter context.
The burst of laughter that is evoked by tickling is a primitive form of vocalization. It evolves during an early phase of postnatal life and appears to be independent of higher cortical circuits. Clinicopathological observations have led to suspicions that the hypothalamus is directly involved in the production of laughter. In this functional magnetic resonance imaging investigation, healthy participants were 1) tickled on the sole of the right foot with permission to laugh, 2) tickled but asked to stifle laughter, and 3) requested to laugh voluntarily. Tickling that was accompanied by involuntary laughter activated regions in the lateral hypothalamus, parietal operculum, amygdala, and right cerebellum to a consistently greater degree than did the 2 other conditions. Activation of the periaqueductal gray matter was observed during voluntary and involuntary laughter but not when laughter was inhibited. The present findings indicate that hypothalamic activity plays a crucial role in evoking ticklish laughter in healthy individuals. The hypothalamus promotes innate behavioral reactions to stimuli and sends projections to the periaqueductal gray matter, which is itself an important integrative center for the control of vocalization. A comparison of our findings with published data relating to humorous laughter revealed the involvement of a common set of subcortical centers.
Laughing is examined auditorily and acoustico-graphically, on the basis of exemplary speech data from spontaneous German dialogues, as pulmonic air stream modulation for communicative functions, paying attention to fine phonetic detail in interactional context. These phonetic case descriptions of laughing phenomena in speaker interaction in a small corpus have as their goal to create an awareness of the phonetic and functional parameters that need to be considered in the future acquisition, acoustic analysis and statistical evaluation of large spontaneous databases.
Previous studies have demonstrated that 1 function of positive emotion is the undoing of physiological arousal produced by negative emotions. These studies have used single-subject paradigms, in which emotions were induced by films in college-age individuals. In the present study, we examined the relationship between physiological down-regulation and positive emotion in a sample of 149 middle-aged and older married couples engaged in a 15-min discussion of an area of marital conflict. During the conversation, autonomic and somatic physiological activity was measured, and emotional behaviors were recorded and subsequently coded. We found that during 20-s periods of down-regulation (where physiology transitioned from high arousal to low arousal), couples showed an increase in positive emotional behavior compared with periods without down-regulation. The finding was quite robust, suggesting that the undoing effect of positive emotion generalizes across age, sex, and marital satisfaction. The advantages of using positive emotion as an emotion regulation strategy are discussed.
Emotional signals are crucial for sharing important information, with conspecifics, for example, to warn humans of danger. Humans use a range of different cues to communicate to others how they feel, including facial, vocal, and gestural signals. We examined the recognition of nonverbal emotional vocalizations, such as screams and laughs, across two dramatically different cultural groups. Western participants were compared to individuals from remote, culturally isolated Namibian villages. Vocalizations communicating the so-called "basic emotions" (anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, and surprise) were bidirectionally recognized. In contrast, a set of additional emotions was only recognized within, but not across, cultural boundaries. Our findings indicate that a number of primarily negative emotions have vocalizations that can be recognized across cultures, while most positive emotions are communicated with culture-specific signals.