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The problem of human laughter is one which has been approached from a number of different points of view by psychologists and sociologists without producing any measure of agreement. The admirable way in which laughter is fitted to serve this function is clearly seen if critics examine its effects; physiologically it induces a condition of euphoria, which proves the belief that everything is exactly as it should be. Psychologically, laughter breaks up thought and so prevents the possibility of a change in social evaluations from so much as coming to consciousness. Your response to another person’s humor says something about who you are. To reinforce positive humor by laughing and sharing your own humorous perspective, but to refuse to laugh at or participate in demeaning humor by remaining quiet or gently commenting is an assertive statement of one’s belief system. Thesis Laughter has a positive health effects affecting a person both physically and psychologically.
Laughter prevents the arousal of the condition of dysphoria which a ludicrous situation would otherwise produce, and which would tend to disturb that delicate adjustment of minor social evaluations by which society largely preserves the good manners, morals, conceptions of rank, and so on, of its members. Laughter arises fundamentally from the social evaluations and the possibility of conflict between them. In the more serious conflicts other social reactions are necessitated, since many of them cannot be “laughed off” (Cetola, 1998. Where the conflict does not involve deep emotional tendencies, laughter serves very well as a compensatory reaction; faced with a conflict in social evaluations, society takes over a biologically determined reaction, and by a process which certain neurotics use to secure anti-social individual adjustments obviates the possibility of an anti-social behavior.
Following Askenasy (1987) the neurotic and the laugher are using the same psychic device for the avoidance of conscious conflict, the only difference being that the former is acting along anti-social lines, whereas the latter is adopting a socially determined pattern of behavior. Now the characteristic muscular apparatus used in the smile and the laugh does not involve exactly the same muscles as those which are employed in either of the habitual reactions of eating or speaking (Stormshak et al 2004). Moreover, there are many other generalized bodily reactions which one would regard as more likely to allow of the escape of surplus nervous energy than laughter (Provine, 2000, p. 182).
Laughter is highly individualized. People find different things funny. Health effects laughter include the following: (1) relief of tension; (2) release of hostility and anger; (3) denial of reality; (4) coping with disability and death; (5) manage difficult situations; (6) helps build cohesiveness relationships; (7) helps intervene with anxiety, depression, and embarrassment. Using humor strategies before a crisis occurs in a work environment makes staff more willing to work together when tension can be great. All people have positive and negative feelings about helping relationships; each also has biases about the other. Both have different priorities for working on particular concerns. The attitudes of people will greatly affect whether they will work in harmony or discord, whether their respective knowledge will surface or submerge, and whether they will carry out the commitment of improving the health (Granick 1995).
Laughter causes health positive changes and helps a person to overcome depression and pain. From the biological point of view researchers found that laughter originally serves the function of communicating to parents the fact that their offspring is contented; it follows that laughter originally expresses a subjective condition in which it is felt that no further adjustment, beyond the one at the moment existing, is required (Strubbe 1995). At the biological level laughter comes to be associated with the play mood and probably serves specialized functions in play activity. When man comes to live in society laughter undergoes further modifications in that it comes to be aroused by certain situations which are described as “ludicrous.” Researchers are laying stress on the fact that the features of ludicrous situations revealed by analysis are not necessarily recognized by the laugher (Provine, 2000, p. 155). They found that the ludicrous always involves two or more conflicting social evaluations both of which may be regarded as applicable to the ludicrous situation (Provine, 2000, pp, 154-155). Researchers found that weeping is an innate reaction which becomes conditioned under social influences and comes to serve a social function depending upon its psychological nature; this tended to suggest that laughter might become conditioned by society in an analogous way (Winerman 2006).
In the first place, the term “relief” is too narrow to describe all cases of the laugh of pleasure, described as being due to a sudden accession of happy consciousness. Only by an unwarrantable straining of meanings can the term “relief” be regarded as synonymous with this. The word “relief,” in the usage of ordinary speech, implies a previous consciously felt state of tension which is pleasurably interrupted. In the case of a small child who laughs when given food, no such previous state can be shown to have existed (Powers et al 2007).
Laughter is an expression of pleasure in general and of the pleasure associated with the “instinct of self-preservation” which affects health. Triumph ascribed to laughter is not the crude glory, but varies with the situation which has occasioned it, being especially prone to be colored by a feeling of deliverance. Laughter is an expression of joy upon the removal of negative emotions (Provine, 2000, p. 150). Laughter can be seen as an expression of relief, a view which has formed the foundation of several subsequent theories (Winerman 2006). Laughter primarily expresses satisfaction, and collective laughter tends to bind people together. This fact explains a feature of the ceremonies: the guests are entertained with certain comic representations. If they can be made to laugh heartily, friendly relations are at once established (Powers et al 2007).
The fact that the guests laugh with their hosts expresses and maintains the solidarity of the two groups. In the case of comedy people enjoy having their social sentiments damaged in a manner which tends to excite laughter, just as in tragedy they enjoy a damage to social sentiments which tends to produce weeping; why this is so is not clear, but it appears that the pleasure derived from comedy, as that derived from tragedy, is due to the fact that, to put the matter paradoxically, things go wrong in the right way; this gives individual pleasure and at the same time serves the social function of maintaining the social sentiments of society by the adoption of the appropriate attitude towards a situation in which they are damaged (Askenasy, 1987). This view derives a certain plausibility from the fact that laughter almost always occurs in a happy, care-free mood, a mood which might in a number of cases be described as arising from a “relief” situation. As we have seen, however, this identification is unjustified, and even were it admitted, the theory would assume such a form that it would be of little value as an explanation, since it would merely tell us that an essential condition of laughter is the existence of a care-free mood (Provine, 2000, p. 180).
Laughter as a social event can be explained as social way in general tends to serve a expiatory function rather than a deterrent one. Laughter becomes a pass evoked by the ludicrous, independently of a person (Stormshak et al 2004). People are not obliged to impute to it a “corrective” function in the sense in which the term is usually employed. Laughter is the response which expresses the suitable attitude for members of society to take up towards ludicrous situations, its primary function being to prevent any disturbance of the system of social values upon the recognition of which by individuals society depends for its existence (Sheldon, 1998). “Laughter was 30 times more frequent in social situations than solitary ones. When alone, people were much more likely to talk to themselves or smile than to laugh” (Winerman 2006). Throughout life laughter still retains some of this expressive quality, even though it has ceased to serve its original function (Stormshak et al 2004).
In sum, the laughter is to a large extent an expression of the satisfaction induced by the activity, though it serves at the same time a function of satisfaction. A laugh of pleasure may be aroused either by a cessation of an unpleasant experience or by an unexpected pleasure. The laugh aroused by the latter cause is not covered by the “relief” theory. Laughter is a social corrective, and one which is always aimed at correcting some automatism encrusted on the living. Now either of these assertions may be true without necessarily affecting the truth of the other, and we may therefore examine them separately. One of the functions of laughter is communicative
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Cetola, H. (1998). An Attributional Explanation for the Effect of Audience Laughter on Perceived Funniness. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 20 (1), p. 243. ProQuest database.
Granick, S. (September 1995). The Therapeutic Value of Laughter, USA Today (Society for the Advancement of Education), 124, p. 72.
Powers, D., Cramer, R. J., Grubka J. M. (2007). Spirituality, Life Stress and Affective Well-Being. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 35 (3), 235. ProQuest database.
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