Laughter: Still the Best Medicine

Laughter—we don’t practice it enough! What makes us laugh, why we love it to the point of paying for good laughs—it’s all a mysterious and funny sort of thing to me.  How about the fact that our funny bone can be aroused through more than one of our senses? But I hadn’t thought of it in the context of evolution, even if “laughing like a monkey” is the only animal sound I can successfully emulate, in wide open spaces.

Here’s from an article in today’s New York Times, “Scientists in Britain Say That Laughter Releases Endorphins, Limiting Pain”:

Dr. Dunbar thinks laughter may have been favored by evolution because it helped bring human groups together, the way other activities like dancing and singing do. Those activities also produce endorphins, he said, and physical activity is important in them as well. “Laughter is an early mechanism to bond social groups,” he said. “Primates use it.”

Indeed, apes are known to laugh, although in a different way than humans. They pant. “Panting is the sound of rough-and-tumble play,” Dr. Provine said. It becomes a “ritualization” of the sound of play. And in the course of the evolution of human beings, he suggests, “Pant, pant becomes ha, ha.”


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