why we laugh

laughing-kid

i’ve done a lot of research in the areas of ‘humor, laughter and the areas in-between’ as a means to understand what makes things funny or not, and its a fascinating topic with numerous theories for us to consider — the leading theories include: The Superiority Theory; The Incongruity and Incongruity-Resolution Theories; The Benign Violation Theory; The Mechanical Theory; and The Release Theory

all of these theories delve into the rather interesting and subtle dynamics around the conditions that produce laughter from human beings, but i’m not so sure they actually even begin to answer the question:

Why do we laugh?

i remember reading all about Peter McGrath’s Benign Violation Theory in The Boston Globe a while back — McGrath’s claims behind his theory almost promise a rather compact and cozy little concept around interpersonal dynamics that almost stand alone as the veritable Holy Grail behind Humor and Laughter Research — a sort of ‘one simple theory explains it all’ — but closer examination and consideration, especially when bringing up examples of humor that actually purposely do not intend to produce genuine, out loud human laughter, subtly shifts Benign Violation from a category of laugh theory into more of a comedy strategy

i’d like to suggest that many of these theories
completely miss the mark

these theories do not actually explain why human beings laugh but instead examine the contextual circumstances that almost mechanically provoke the human response of laughter in only certain situations — know what i mean? 

its taken me quite some time now to really look at this subject matter in the proper light and to interpret and really analyze all the theories and nuances of laughter, humor, comedy and funniness — and i feel its oversimplistic and almost unfair to think that only one theory does the trick here, because laughter is a very complicated human phenomena, almost as complicated an area of study as our belief systems and our cultures

but, as a means to completely contradict myself now, i feel that we can, in fact, explain the ‘Why?’ question — and embed all of these various theories around the circumstances surrounding laughter into the major reason we laugh — with a new theory of laughter evolution as i’m about to try and articulate …

toward a
New Theory of
Human Laughter Evolution

an initial theory to answer the question ‘why do human beings laugh?’

this is going to sound totally ridiculous, maybe even funny to you, but i believe we laugh as human beings because we have to

we simply need to laugh

as human beings, we all walk through the world as these living, breathing vessels for various psycho-dynamic energies

some of these energies can be positive and some of these energies can be negative

but the energies build up inside all of us as if we were containers made of flesh and blood and bones that simply hold these mysterious energies

bottle-humor

antiquated scientific theories actually suggested that liquids called humours literally coursed through our bodies — and that these liquid humours were what triggered joy and laughter in an almost endorphin-like fashion

but i believe that the energies we build up { not measured as liquid or solid or gas in form } need to be released — and one of the most positive ways we can release extreme build-ups of our internal energies is through laughter

one other consideration that might make this a wee bit more complex and realistic as a pseudo-scientific theory follows

we, as human beings, probably initially cultivated laughter as a release system in an iterative, evolutionary manner as our species needed to adapt to the tense circumstances of our world — this does not mean that i subscribe solely to Freud’s Release Theory, but our need to release unhealthy energy is the most likely original reason we began to laugh as a species — in early human pre-history we needed to ultimately release the harsh feelings and energies building up inside as we dealt with our environment and the ways of the world — and laughter is a rather transgressive human expression of these potentially negative energies that feel far too intense for the body and mind to handle in a healthy manner

so, we need to laugh to survive

laughter is an adaptive behavior we’ve developed over time as a means
to psychologically brave the challenging experiences we encounter in life

and now — depending upon our contextual circumstances in the moment — we’ve evolved a rather intriguing set of socio-dynamic systems around laughter { beyond our original adaptive ‘energy release’ needs } with a multitude of complex, situation-based rules to govern when, why and how we laugh, and whether or not a particular expression of laughter indicates certain levels of social acceptability and awareness

its all fascinating stuff, right?

i plan to post more here and elsewhere on the webz along the way as i conduct further research into laughter and humor through Laugh Institute with the final outcome being a new book project that i’m affectionately calling the laughterLife as inspired by the fourth stream of cyberSurreal subConsciousness from my graduate design thesis confounded: future fetish design performance for human advocacy

[: stay tuned :]

Want to participate in a Laugh Study?

 

 

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