Laughing’s an odd human behavior. We laugh even when we don’t think something’s funny, which means that laughter’s got some pretty deep evolutionary roots:
The areas that control laughing lie deep in the subcortex, and in terms of evolutionary development these parts of the brain are ancient, responsible for primal behaviours such as breathing and controlling basic reflexes. This means laughter control mechanisms are located a long way away from brain regions that developed later and control higher functions such as language or even memory.
This make sense, because laughing is a key human social interaction, and an important “wordless” way to communicate. It’s so important that even people who are profoundly hearing impaired laugh. Laughter can be bright and bubbly, or it can be dark and sinister, even hurtful. It’s contagious, too – even to ourselves. Sometimes once we start, we can’t stop.
It’s all kind of…funny, really. For more about laughter, check out Chip Walter’s book: Thumbs, Toes and Tears – And Other Traits That Make Us Human
Test yourself – do you laugh when you watch this video? Let us know in the comments!