Parrots do it, rats do it, and we do it partly for social reasons. But to learn more, I need the help of comedy fans
The American writer EB White famously said, “Analysing humour is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested and the frog dies of it.” But is the same true of analysing laughter?
I am a brain scientist who studies laughter, and I find it quite interesting, not least because scientific analyses tell us that pretty much everything we humans think we know about laughter is wrong. We think laughter is primarily something we do when we find something funny, but in fact most laughter is produced for social reasons – we are 30 times more likely to laugh if there is someone else with us than when we are on our own. We all laugh much more often than we think we do – studies find an average of seven laughs per 10 minutes of conversation between strangers, and an average 10% of all of a conversation between friends. We think we are the only animals that laugh, but laughter has been described in other apes, parrots and even rats.