One of the unique aspects of humanity is laughter. Psychologists are at a loss as to why we laugh but they all agree that it is something we all do. It has no language barrier you do not need to speak a certain language in order to laugh. Babies laugh as early as four months of age and animals have demonstrated a vocalization that resembles a laugh. The actual brain function that causes laughter has stymied psychologists through the ages. What is known is that laughter provides relief from stress by releasing pain-killing, euphoria-producing endorphins, dopamine, noradrenalin, and adrenaline. Laughter is prompted by different thoughts, situations, and feelings. One laughs more with others than alone. Laughter is contagious and social in nature. Once you start to hear someone else laugh, it triggers your laugh response as well. When we laugh, we are often conveying humorous intention. Laughter then, unites a group by binding them with this common reaction.
So why do women laugh more than men do? Studies have shown that in social situations, women will in fact laugh more than men do, and men will be more likely to elicit the laugh from their audience. Could this be a role in matchmaking? Women, when describing their ideal’ mate will often include someone who has a sense of humor. Provine (2006) cites, “When Karl Grammar and Irenaus Eibl-Eibesfeldt studied spontaneous conversations between mixed-sex pairs of young German adults meeting for the first time, they noted that the more a woman laughed aloud during these encounters, the greater her self-reported interest in the man she was talking to. In the same vein, men were more interested in women who laughed heartily in their presence.”
Alternatively, do women laugh more than men do since they are more in tune with their emotions? Women tend to more empathetic than men, and when in a social situation want to help the one making the funny statement by laughing. Laughter is an emotional response to some stimulus and women are usually less inhibited in showing their emotions than men do.
Despite the push for equality between the sexes in the workplace, women are still lower in social status than men. In the place of work, you are more likely to hear a woman laughing than you are a man, and the lower you are on the totem pole the more likely you are to laugh. When you are low in the chain of command, you need all the allies you can get, so you are prone to laugh at anything even if it has no immediate effect. Apparently the higher up the corporate ladder one climbs, less humor is expressed by either men or women.
But when you get right down to it, don’t women laugh more at men and aren’t men trying to get women to laugh?
Provine, R. (2006) The Science of Laughter. Retrieved June 10, 2007 from http://psychologytoday.com/articles/index.php?term=pto-20001101-000036&page=3