Why do we laugh?

baby-laughter

Laughing isn’t something that we have to learn to do, it just comes naturally – even very young babies can laugh if they are tickled! It is a physical response, made by the same muscles that we use to breathe.

But why do we laugh? What is it for?

Well, laughter is a form of communication. It shows other people that you are excited or happy. People laugh when they hear a joke, when they are playing, or when they see or think of something funny. And sometimes people laugh for other reasons: perhaps if they feel embarrassed or nervous.

Laughing can help people to make friends by showing each other that they are friendly. Since people often live in families and groups, being able to make friends and stay friends with others is an important way of keeping those families and groups together.

Did you know that it’s not just humans who laugh? Some animals (sort of) do it too: Chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos and orangutans make a screeching noise when they play or tickle each other; rats chirp when they play or are tickled; and dogs can pant-laugh when they play together! We think these animals are communicating fun or enjoyment, just as we do when we laugh.

Fun fact: Sometimes, laughter can be contagious – this means that if one person starts laughing, others may join in! There is a very silly song about laughing like this in the film ‘Mary Poppins’.

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