Why We Laugh at the Most Inappropriate Times and What It Says About Us
Laughter is best described as a physiological response to humor. In fact, humans can giggle as early as three months old. The fact that laughter kicks in before babies can even speak shows us the importance it plays in daily life: As a nonverbal communication cue, laughter plays a major role in social communication. The simple act allows us to connect with others.
However, chortles can also divide us: Some people can’t help but laugh during extremely stressful situations such as a funeral. Typically, nervous laughter results from feelings of anxiety, tension, confusion or even embarrassment.
Nervous laughter was first studied by psychologist Stanley Milgram in the 1960s. Milgram conducted famous obedience experiments in which participants referred to as “teachers” were instructed to shock “learners” for wrong answers. The shocks increased in power from a slight shock of 15 volts to a severe shock of 450 volts. Though the learners didn’t actually receive zaps, the teachers believed they did.
Read the whole story (subscription may be required): Discover Magazine
APS regularly opens certain online articles for discussion on our website. Effective February 2021, you must be a logged-in APS member to post comments. By posting a comment, you agree to our Community Guidelines and the display of your profile information, including your name and affiliation. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations present in article comments are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of APS or the article’s author. For more information, please see our Community Guidelines.
Please login with your APS account to comment.