Why do we laugh?
What makes you laugh the most?
While rib-tickling jokes and hilarious videos certainly do make us giggle, most of the time we laugh because of something much simpler: being with other people.
So much so that we are 30 times more likely to laugh when we're with others, according to a study by neuroscientist Robert Provine from the University of Maryland. "When you're alone, laughter basically disappears," he told Smithsonian Magazine.
So, what is it about other people that makes us split our sides? The answer lies deep within our brains, and in how we form communities.
Laughter is a social emotion that we use to "make and maintain social bonds," says Professor Sophie Smith from University College London in an article for the BBC. It reassures people that situations are non-threatening. Those who laugh frequently are also often more popular. Even in a normal conversation we laugh seven times every 10 minutes, she says.
Professor Smith also explains that laughter is very different to speech. It is non-verbal: the wheezing and snorting sounds are produced by air being pushed out quickly at high pressure, without involving the teeth or lips. These sounds are the kind we make when in a state of heightened emotion.
In this respect, laughter sounds more like an animal call than human language. This theory is backed up by tests which show the part of the brain responsible for laughter is not the neocortex used in language, but an 'older' area we share with mammals.
Indeed, chimpanzees, gorillas and even rats all enjoy a good chortle, especially when being tickled. Just be careful when you tickle a gorilla, or you might end up laughing on the other side of your face… (Did you laugh at that gag? Or did it just make you groan?)
split your sides
laugh on the other side of your face