Why Women Laugh more than Men

The answer as to why women laugh more than men has eluded more than a few thinkers of their times, such as Plato and Aristotle. In his book ‘Laughter’ written in 2000, Professor Robert Provine reports statistics that indicate that the fairer sex does laugh more frequently than their counterparts, and offers his theories as to why.

Through a study by the Maryland Professor, observations were made of more than 1200 subjects unaware of his surveillance. Women laugh more often according to Provine, but men cause more laughter as speakers. He also observed that laughter was status related, those of lower status laughing at speakers of higher status. The concept of giggling females was reinforced to a degree, and this was not a laughing matter to most women.

When Professor Provine’s study is combined with studies of Dr. Jaak Panksepp, a noted neuroscientist at Washington State University, an interesting aspect regarding laughter results. In studies with other primates, and even rats, evidence of “primal laughter” is noted. Chimps laughter sounds like a panting ha-ha, and rats emit a chirping sound audible to special instruments to being tickled. What’s more, they enjoy it!

Professor Panksepp theorizes that the brain is “wired” to produce laughter as a signal of readiness for social interaction. The threat of tickling stimulates a type of euphoria circuit in the brain in human infants, and even lower species of animals. “Sophisticated social animals use this emotionally positive mechanism to help create social brains, and social relationships” explained Dr. Panksepp in an interview with the N.Y. Times in March of 2007.

It seems obvious that laughter is a basic part of our social interaction as human beings. Laughter is perceived as a “vote of approval” for the speaker by his audience under normal conditions, and socially correct behavior. It also indicates friendliness. In addition, we know that laughing is a healthy activity which is said to activate our immune systems. That is not funny, it is important. To me, the most important aspect to laughter is that we laugh with one another, and not at each other. That isn’t funny at all.

It turns out, the importance of laughing may be a serious signal from women that they are willing to socially interact, explaining their behavior. Men are just a little more reluctant to socially interact. Is that a surprise?

source: New York Times, march 2007