Laughter is mainly about relationships. We live in a society that tends to isolate and divide people.

Laughter improves communication

Social benefits of laughterLaughing together can greatly improve cooperation and empathy between people of different cultural backgrounds. It fosters better communication, which leads to a less confrontational approach in tense situations and a change from individual competitiveness to team cooperation. Voluntary simulated laughter in particular is most beneficial for very socially and culturally diverse groups thanks to its universal and inclusive nature, because it means that they can all join in and develop a sense of belonging.

The English comedian John Cleese said, “I’m struck by how laughter connects you with people. It’s almost impossible to maintain any kind of distance, any sense of social hierarchy when you are just howling with laughter. Laughter is a force for democracy.”

Laughter improves romance

Laughter is usually an indicator of family vitality and healthy couples. Laughter is very attractive at the interpersonal level, especially for women.

Men use much more humor and laughter when it comes to discussing sensitive health issues. They also prefer women who laugh at their wit.

In women, laughter would be more associated with greater social support in relationships and as a tool to cope with stress. According to research, they tend to prefer a man with a sense of humor. (Read more.)

Laughter promotes person-to-person bonding

A research paper suggests that 80% of our laughter occurs during everyday comments in everyday social situations and only acts as social signals of goodwill and friendship. (Read more.)

Robert Provine, a neurobiologist who studies laughter, with help from three graduate students, went to places such as shopping malls and eavesdropped on more than 1200 conversations. They noted who was speaking, who was listening, who laughed and when, and whether the speaker and listeners were female or male. They found that the person speaking laughed 46% more than the listeners. Furthermore, the response to the speaker depended on the speaker’s gender. People, whether male or female, laughed more readily in response to a male speaker. The researchers observed that laughter rarely interrupted speech. Instead, laughter came at the end of a phrase, much as punctuation follows a written sentence. They also found out that it is up to 30 times easier to laugh in a group than on your own.

Relevant studies

Laughter increases people’s willingness to disclose, even though they may not necessarily be aware that it is doing so. Alan W. Gray, Brian Parkinson, Robin I. Dunbar. Laughter’s Influence on the Intimacy of Self-Disclosure. Human Nature, 2015; DOI: 10.1007/s12110-015-9225-8

Conversational laughter helped prevent or resolve risk of confrontation in addiction group therapy. Arminen I, Halonen M. Laughing with and at patients: the role of laughter in confrontations in addiction group therapy. Qual Rep. 2007;12 (3):484-513.

In patients with schizophrenia, a humor and laughter intervention reduced hostility and depression/anxiety scores; improved activation scores and social support; lowered the levels of psychopathology; and improved social competence.

  • Gelkopf M, Kreitler S, Sigal M. Laughter in a psychiatric ward. Somatic, emotional, social, and clinical influences on schizophrenic patients. J Nerv Ment Dis. 1993;181 (5):283-289.
  • Gelkopf M. Sigal M, Kramer R. Therapeutic use of humor to improve social support in an institutionalized schizophrenic inpatient community. J Soc Psychol 1994;134 (2);175-182.
  • Gelkopf M, Gonen B, Kurs R, Melamed Y, Bleich A. The effect of humorous movies on inpatients with chronic schizophrenia. J Nerv Ment Dis. 2006;194 (11):880-883.
Laughter enhanced patient care in different clinical settings. Scholl JC, Ragan SL. The use of humor in promoting positive provider-patient interactions in a hospital rehabilitation unit Health Commum. 2003;15 (3):319-330.

Laughter may enhance conversation between health care professionals and patients. Karl KA, Peluchette JV, Harland L. Is fun for everyone? Personality differences in health care providers’ attitudes toward fun. J Health Hum Serv Adm. 2007;29 (4):409-447.

We have also heard of but have not yet taken the time to look for published references for:

  • Cal Tech – Allman and Watson. Studies showed that complex humor recalibrates our intuition, allowing us to make better social decisions.
  • University of Liverpool and Kent. Altruism improves with laughter. Two groups were shown either a funny or serious video before playing an altruistic game with strangers. The group that had seen the funny video was significant more altruistic while playing the game. Researchers believe that it is possibly because of increased endorphins caused by laughter. They believe laughter may have evolved as a way to release positive emotion in order to deal with a hostile environment and to facilitate group bonding.

Related links

What is your experience with the social benefits of laughter? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below!