Has this ever crossed your mind as to why do we laugh? It’s a very complicated emotion – the laughter. They say humor is good for the mind. Yes, indeed it is, but what is the philosophy of humor? What is the difference between humor and satire? Where we draw lines between humoring ourselves and not offending others?
Laughter is figuratively natural if it comes spontaneously.
Has anyone ever seen an animal laugh like a dog or a cat etc.? It is gifted to us through millions of years of evolution. We laughed when something unusual or weird happened. Nobody knows whether we smiled first or altogether started with a laughter, but whatever it is, humans evolved and get the gift of laughter.
Laughter is figuratively natural if it comes spontaneously. Sometimes, others try to make you laugh; some people earn their living making others laugh. My favorite TV show, as the name suggests, is “just for laugh gags. In one of their clips, they put a robotic tiger, whose head moves to and fro and can also open its mouth. They put this in a blind corner of a busy street. Whenever a passerby, buried in his or her thoughts, approached near to it, they put a roar on. The startled person turning towards the roar will see a (nearly) live tiger opening its mouth, will jump few feet high. All others watching the show live will burst into laughter. Few got shocked, some slipped, a few caught their breath after realizing that it is indeed a prank.
In ancient times Laughter was not considered at all healthy for the individual and nor it was beneficial for the people of that place or the Empire.
The amount of tolerance to these pranks varies from a person, country, and the intensity of the prank. Some may go too far. I have watched a video where they were pranking real people in a public shower with fake anaconda, while they were about to take a shower. The reaction was, of course, out of this world. Most of them ran naked outside and some wanted to kill the snake. They were also showing the program in pic-in-pic, where the people were laughing at the reaction of those in the showers. Now there are many such videos on YouTube where they have taken the prank to another level. One person's fear, confusion, and embarrassment are other people laugh.
The Greek Philosopher Aristotle agreed with his teacher Plato that laughter was at all not healthy for society as such
In ancient times Laughter was not considered at all healthy for the individual and nor it was beneficial for the people of that place or the Empire. The great Athenian Greece Philosopher Plato has never considered humor and loud laughter morally just. He thought that if someone kept loud laughter un-checked, it could provoke the person to commit violent acts. According to him controlling one’s laughter was a kind of self-control and kept the body fit and mind clear. Ironically, he further stated that we should leave laughter for slaves or hired aliens. I wonder if Plato somehow gets reincarnated, he will, if not die again of shock, have a hard time convincing people on his philosophy about laughter when he will see every person trying to pull pranks on others, especially if he spends some time over the YouTube. He will see a video where young couples are pranking one another. Sometimes one butters the floor, the other put bleach in the shampoo, and sometimes completely get them off when one of them hide the car and the other gets furious, shocked, and outrageous.
Amazing, isn’t it? In addition to making people laugh, they are getting millions of hits on these videos. Most people consider these humorous, others may say they are staged, but still, they can’t stop laughing.
The Greek Philosopher Aristotle agreed with his teacher Plato that laughter was at all not healthy for society as such. Though, Aristotle considered the wit a valuable part of the conversation (Nicomachean Ethics 4, 8). He agreed with Plato that laughter expresses scorn. He further added that it is a kind of mockery and lawmakers should forbid certain jest that represents mockery.
We, humans start developing a sense of humor as early as 6 weeks of age, when babies begin to laugh and smile in response to stimuli.
Humorous for us though, but it is clear that great Philosophers like Plato and Aristotle along with the school of Stoicism didn’t favor laughter at all, especially the louder and more unrestrained it got. According to them, the person was not good at self-control.
Forbidding laughter is still prevalent in some nations, countries, cultures, and families. They adhere to the systems of ancient philosophers and believe in Stoicism knowingly or otherwise (Stoicism is a school of Hellenistic philosophy founded by Zeno of Citium in Athens in the early 3rd century BC).
It brings us back to the question we asked before, what is the Psychology of laughter? We don't have a concrete idea as to why April the 1st became a holiday devoted to pranks and laughter. It remains a mystery, although some historians trace it back to the Roman holiday of Hillarie.
We, humans start developing a sense of humor as early as 6 weeks of age, when babies begin to laugh and smile in response to stimuli. Laughter is universal across human cultures and even exists in some form of rats, chimps, and bonobos (pygmy chimpanzee). Like other human emotions and expressions, laughter and humor provide scientists with rich resources for studying human psychology, ranging from the developmental underpinnings of language to the neuroscience of social perception.
Many research studies are done on laughers. In some, the expert analyzes different kinds of laughter, viz. submissive verses dominate laughs. They observed that people while working lower in ranks to others, will laugh differently in front of their superior; as well as their superior laughter will be more dominant i.e. higher in pitch whether they are teased or teasing others during that experiment.
Researchers like Psychological scientists Peter McGraw (University of Colorado, Boulder) and Caleb Warren (University of Arizona) proposed that negativity is an intrinsic part of humor — without violating a norm or rule of some kind, a joke just isn’t funny.
Another study on 67 students has found that when exposed to pictures like a man is sticking his finger through his nose up to his eye socket, was found funnier when it was told that it is a fake. Students found a less disturbing image not funnier, like a frozen beard, when told those are real.
The effects of laughter on us are usually positive, which was thought to be the other way around earlier.
“These findings suggested that there’s a real sweet spot in comedy — you have to get the right mix between how bad something is and how distant it is for it to be seen as a benign violation,” McGraw said.
The effects of laughter on us are usually positive, which was thought to be the other way around earlier. Look at this example. Traditionally we think of working hard as go on working till you need to relax and then work some more. An Australian study has found some results contrary to the traditional theories. Professors David Cheng and Lu Wang at Australian national management university found out, across two studies, that people who watched a funny video clip before a task, spent approximately twice as long on a tiresome task compared with people who watched neutral or positive (but not funny) videos. Cheng and Wang hypothesized that humor may provide a respite from tedious situations in the workplace. They later concluded, “We suggest that humor is not only enjoyable but more importantly, energizing”.
Amazingly, in India, they have dedicated a whole park just for laughers, where they encourage visitors to laugh louder and keep on laughing. I remembered that once when we were queuing to get to the top of a skyscraper, during one of our family travels and Mr. Bean was shown on the display. Everyone was enjoying it, even though most of them couldn’t understand the language. Well, one doesn’t have to know any language while watching Mr. Bean. Only because of the show nobody bothered waiting in a queue as they were smiling, if not laughing.
It is a scientifically proven fact that humor can reduce the stressful situation to a credible least stressful one. It energizes us when we are put to a tedious task. Nonetheless, there are different theories on humor. One of them, the theory of benign violations proposes that something is funny when it seems both wrong or threatening and essentially harmless—as when a comedian says something shocking but unserious. (What counts as benign depends on the perceiver of the joke.)
It is a scientifically proven fact that humor can reduce the stressful situation to a credible least stressful one.
Humor can make a bad day into a better one. It affects our mood positively and gives us time to relax. My teenage son, when overwhelmed by his studies, watch different funny movies, like Johnny English, The Pink Panther, and browse through funny videos on YouTube. This releases his stress and makes him all young again to face the harsh realities once more.
I remember an Interview of Martin Scorsese, the legendary Hollywood Film director, where he was telling about one of his movies in which he had based the whole theme around comedy. He was talking about his famous Movie “The wolf of wall Street” as he was explaining why he did that though the crime was of serious notion. He wanted the viewers to enjoy alongside getting the story. He came out to be right as we, the audience, did enjoy the movie and has learned a lot from it too.
Keep on smiling, laugh once in a while, and try to see good in the laughter. Laughter keeps evil away!