APR 18, 2016 7:48 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.
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