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Why Do We Laugh?


par4dcourse
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This came up in a friendly discussion with a liberal xian. I don't mean the stimulus, I wonder what natural selection factor favored the first humanoid to inhale and emit staccato bark like sounds in response to an audible or visual stimulus over those who didn't? I didn't have an answer.

 

Theories?

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My guess is that it came from genetic drift.  Laughter might have started off as a quirk and then become useful later.  

 

It's hard to imagine being the first hominid with a sense of humor.  What a rough gig that must have been!  The rest of the tribe must have thought he was insane.  "What is wrong with Grog?  Every time somebody slips on a banana Grog stands their barking.  There is something wrong with Grog."

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Good article, but suggests laughter was a learned response, not genetic. I'm still wondering why the very first "guy" to make this sound survived to make it an ubiquitous human trait. Early man didn't laugh, then they did. What changed?

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 Early man didn't laugh, then they did. What changed?

 

They discovered weed.....smiliegojerkit.gif ....and smoked waaaaay to much.....the other humans just looked plain ole' stupid and he couldn't contain himself.......lmao_99.gif

 

Hence...the beginning of laughter.......

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I guess a mutation started it.  After that, it is no mystery to me why it spread.  Laughter is attractive, like smiling.

That just pushes the answer one step further: why is laughter attractive? What makes our brains find this particular behavior attractive?

 

It could be possible that other behaviors filling a similar role have existed somewhere, but that laughter (either as a inherent genetical thing or as a learned behavior) has won out in the memetic-evolutionary or genetic-evolutionary competition. However, if it's genetic, we'd expect people with an unfortunate mutation who won't laugh at all, and if it's learned, we could expect there to have been tribes that use some other behavior somewhere. 

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I read somewhere that the evolutionary trait of crying was a form of communication to express, or prompt for empathy regardless of communicative barriers. My GUESS is that laughter is somewhat the same. Crying, laughing, touching, smiling, these are a sort of universal language, and all release hormones that promote stress relief and happiness... endorphines, oxytocin, etc.

 

Side note... the replies on this thread cracked me up. "There is something wrong with Grog." LMAO!

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Good article, but suggests laughter was a learned response, not genetic. I'm still wondering why the very first "guy" to make this sound survived to make it an ubiquitous human trait. Early man didn't laugh, then they did. What changed?

 

Why would there be a first guy?  Why wouldn't the process of just been gradual? 

 

Just thinking out loud here but today, those with a sense of humor tend to get laid more than wet blankets.

 

Why?  Most of us intuitively know even if we can't perfectly explain it yet.  Dennet discusses intuition as a tool here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intuition_pump

 

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Its not unheard of in animals either:

 

 

Chimpanzeesgorillasbonobos and orangutans show laughter-like vocalizations in response to physical contact, such as wrestling, play chasing, or tickling. This is documented in wild and captive chimpanzees. Chimpanzee laughter is not readily recognizable to humans as such, because it is generated by alternating inhalations and exhalations that sound more like breathing and panting. It sounds similar to screeching. The differences between chimpanzee and human laughter may be the result of adaptations that have evolved to enable human speech. It is hard to tell, though, whether or not the chimpanzee is expressing joy. There are instances in which non-human primates have been reported to have expressed joy. One study analyzed and recorded sounds made by human babies and bonobos (also known as pygmy chimpanzees) when tickled. It found that although the bonobo’s laugh was a higher frequency, the laugh followed the same spectrographic pattern of human babies to include as similar facial expressions. Humans and chimpanzees share similar ticklish areas of the body such as the armpits and belly. The enjoyment of tickling in chimpanzees does not diminish with age.

Research has noted the similarity in forms of laughter among humans and apes (chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, orangutans) when tickled, suggesting that laughter derived from a common origin among primate species, and has subsequently evolved prior to the origin of humans.[1][2]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laughter_in_animals

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Rank, what did we tell you about flinging poo at the dinner table?! :P

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I'm going to go with social-happy-stuff reinforcement communication. "I am happy in a social way. Tee hee." Other very social animals do very similar things. It probably helps with social bonding. Think: laughing with someone - we bond because we find the same things funny. Laughing at someone - we bond because we ridicule and discourage the same socially disadvantageous behaviour.

 

The reason I think it's a social cohesion thing, is that other very social animals, that are not our close relatives, notably get all giggly (or at least an ultrasonic analogue). Possibly the most adorable and least cruel animal research ever. I'm talking about rats, of course. Oh, the wonders of convergent evolution.

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Rank, what did we tell you about flinging poo at the dinner table?! tongue.png

 

I keep my poo-flinging and my banana-eating quite separate, fuckyouverymuch.  yellow.gif

 

But seriously- when I see a bunch of humans get together in a group and start joking mock-aggressing (myself included), I can't help but note how chimp-like that behavior is.  Much of human behavior and group-bonding boils down to little more than "us: Yay!   them: Boo!".

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No argument there! Apes (and plenty of other creatures) consider a locked stare as a threat and challenge. I try to be an overall peaceful person, but if someone is staring at me, I start to lose my shit. Something else I've noticed in myself is that I've beaten my chest in frustration.

 

And of course there's the five knuckle shuffle. That's an animal instinct most men will never conquer.

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Early man didn't laugh, then they did. What changed?

Laughter was actually DISCOVERED back in Paleosaladical Age. That was when man first learned how to toss another's salad. The result -- laughter.
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