One of the things that I was most intrigued by in the first chapter of Synaptic Self was LeDoux’s comments about “genetically hardwired behavior.” He discusses the act of freezing in fearful situations and that both humans and rats act the same way in such situations. After reading this question and his later discussion of nature and nature, I started to brainstorm similar actions that all humans do but do differently. What about laughter? Every human laughs and generally at the same things, but every person’s laugh is different. Today during class we discussed the possibility of laughter being connected to vocal cords and that since we each have different voices, this could be connected to our individual laughs.

Still pondering this idea, I did a little research and found one NYTimes article that addresses why we laugh. In his study, Robert R. Provine found that we actually laugh more as the speaker rather than as the listener of a joke. Therefore, we don’t all necessarily laugh at the same things. The part of the article that I found most interesting was his idea that laughter can be traced back to primates, specifically chimpanzees and the act of tickling one another. The article notes, “the brain has ancient wiring to produce laughter so that young animals learn to play with one another. The laughter stimulates euphoria circuits in the brain and also reassures the other animals that they’re playing, not fighting.” After reading this, I immediately thought of our discussion in class today about nature and nurture and how they lead to the development of the self. Provine and LeDoux agree on each of us having “genetic hardwiring.” Put together though, one might conclude that the tickling, playing, and telling jokes is nurturing to the brain, which then reacts because we enjoy laughing and the joy that is usually coupled with it. Therefore, we seek more tickling, playing, and telling jokes so that we can continue to nurture the brain, thus developing the self.

However, my question still remains: if we all generally laugh at similar things and have this “genetic hardwiring”, then why do our laughs sound differently?


NYTimes Article

One thought on “Laughter

  1. Taylor, I forgot to mention this in class but I have evidence that the laugh itself may indeed run in families but it’s not clear if that is inherited or learned….


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