Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Science Behind Laughter

Being that I study Biology here at Loyola, I guess you can say that these readings were pretty entertaining for me. Descartes, Freud, and Spencer all focus on why we laugh, looking deep into the physiology and anatomical factors, and coming up with some sort of explanation and reason to justify the random actions of laughing. When I was reading the articles (Descartes’ in particular), I began to wonder if science has progressed in the study of the physiology of laughing, and to my surprise science is still dumbfounded with the action of laughter. Studies and research has been conducted on the social aspects of humor, but no real understanding has formed to tell us ‘how it works’. Research of laughter indicates that the only physiological conclusions are the change in breathing, and the unconscious nature of occurrence (via endorphins in coming from the brain).

Understanding how things work always intrigues me, and I know some people will have a problem with understanding why scientists need to place reason with everything. Although the mere presence of laughter is amazing, I would love to take a look behind the scenes to understand my body, so in a sense I guess it’s sort of a controlling feeling of empowerment, the ability to know what is occurring on in our own bodies. Now knowing that laughter may be caused by a rush of endorphins doesn’t complete the understanding of laughing. In my Developmental Biology course we covered the main three forms of evidence: loss of function, gain of function and correlative evidence. The concept of endorphins is an example of a correlation, and therefore not a strong conclusion. The concept that endorphins might cause laughter still is not a fact that can stand alone, just because there is a rush of endorphins doesn’t mean that the endorphins are the main cause.

I think that this study of laughter is a study that hasn’t been looked at enough and for right now laughter remains a mystery on a physiological level (and maybe should stay that way). Sometimes you may have no clue as to why you may be laughing. For example, the other day I was walking on campus and kind of ‘people watching’ as I ate my lunch. I began to notice that most of the people walking together were laughing, but not laughing at a joke, more like laughing after a normal comment. I found this bizarre, but when I called my dad (you know the everyday catch-up with your parents), I began to notice that I was doing the same thing. I would naturally/subconsciously laugh after a regular statement. This made me think of laughter on a more sociological level, that this habit of laughter just begins to fill the empty space.

I guess the little understanding of laughter that we have on a physiological level makes me feel uncomfortable, as I begin to look at another possible answer as to why there is no real in-depth grasp of why/how we laugh, I begin to think that maybe laughter is just situational and that it all depends. Like what we discussed in class everyone has a different idea of what is funny, however, what we all do have in common is when we see something that we think is funny( the said action )occurring, we can’t resist the temptation to laugh.

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