We all laugh; we all know this sensation that is regulated by the brain, but have you ever asked why do we laugh? What do we think that is so funny, so we start laughing out loud?
There are three theories about what we find funny: the incongruity theory, the superiority theory and the relief theory.
The incongruity theory was elaborated in 1970 by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant in “The Critique of Judgment”. This theory suggests that what causes laughter is the “non-matching” of what we expect to happen and what really happens. When a joke begins, our mind and body anticipates what is about to happen. That anticipation is intertwined with our emotions and past experiences, so, when a joke goes in a different direction we need to switch gears and new emotions invade our brain – we experience two sets of incompatible thoughts. In conclusion, we are laughing out loud!
The superiority theory is based on laughing of somebody’s mistake or stupidity. We feel superior to that person so we start laughing.
The relief theory or the release theory was defined by Sigmund Freud – he has a strong argument which holds that “all laughter results from a release of excessive energy”. With this theory Freud explains the “type” of laughter that allows us to release or to get rid of a very stressful thought. He thinks that this theory can be applied when we talk about sexual or hostile feelings. It allows us to hint and to say things that we would never say in a polite and serious conversation. Freud says that this is the theory that we apply when we tell something serious about someone, that person gets mad and we hide behind this cliché: “I was joking!”.
Another way to laugh out loud is by tickling. When another person tickles us we can’t stop laughing because our brain is surprised with exterior actions. Have you ever tried to tickle yourself? Have you observed that you simply can’t laugh? It’s strange, but scientists, after they built a “tickle machine”, they found out that our brain needs to be surprised with foreign actions. How the brain uses this information about tension and surprise is still a mystery.
These are the causes of laughter. Now all we need to do is to find someone that knows how to tell a funny story, or someone we could gossip with or somebody that makes us laugh because he is very playful or stupid and inattentive – so that we could apply all the elaborated theories about laughter.