APR 18, 2016 07:48 AM PDT

The Mystery of Laughter

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Laughter is universal, instinctual, and even contagious. And it seems simple enough: we normally laugh when something funny happens or when we get tickled. But, when laughter is broken down into the bizarre, gasping, grunting noises - laughing becomes a strange phenomenon. Have you ever paused to consider why we laugh and what the purpose of laughter is? And why is laughter more infectious with other people around?

Though laughter is a form of communication understood by everyone, scientists still don't know all the specific brain mechanisms that trigger a laugh. But there are several hypotheses as to why we get the giggles sometimes. The first is the "Incongruity Hypothesis," which asserts that we laugh in response to something unexpected. This theory is sensible, as we don't normally laugh at mundane objects or situations; however when surprising twists happen, it becomes much funnier. This hypothesis also explains why babies and young children are so much more sensitive to laughter. Watch the video to learn about other ideas about why we LOL.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
JUL 17, 2018
Chemistry & Physics
JUL 17, 2018
Ammonia the Next Renewable Fuel?
The most obvious drawback of renewable energy such as solar and wind energy is that their production lacks continuity. A solution is to convert the electri...
JUL 23, 2018
Videos
JUL 23, 2018
Rare Diseases That Changed Medicine
In the US, a disease is considered rare when it affects fewer than 200,000 people in the whole country. But, in Europe, a disease is considered rare when i...
JUL 23, 2018
Space & Astronomy
JUL 23, 2018
Earth is Pretty Small Compared to Everything Else in Space
To you and I, the Earth might seem like a large place. But in astronomical terms, our planet is actually quite small. Comparatively, the gas giant planets...
AUG 01, 2018
Videos
AUG 01, 2018
Goodbye to the Endangered Species Act?
The Endangered Species Act, which protects more than 2,000 plant, animal and insect species at risk of...
AUG 10, 2018
Chemistry & Physics
AUG 10, 2018
The Chemistry in Yellowstone's Deadly Hot Springs
The Yellowstone National Park is famous for its geysers and the hydrothermal system otherwise known as the hot springs. But such spectacular landscape hide...
AUG 17, 2018
Videos
AUG 17, 2018
Why do I self-sabotage before a big exam?
Have you ever been so stressed about an exam that you ended up sabotaging yourself? Psychologists use the term "self-handicapping" to refer ...
Loading Comments...