The purpose of this paper is to present a new core hypothesis on laughter. It has been built by putting together ideas from several disciplines: neurodynamics, evolutionary neurobiology, social networks, and communication studies. The hypothesis focusses on the social nature of laughter and contributes to ascertain its evolutionary origins in connection with the cognitive and social-emotional functions it performs.
An in-depth examination of laughter in the social communication context and along the life cycle of the individual is performed. This instinctive behaviour that appears as a “virtual”, non-physical form of “grooming” would serve as a bond-making instrument in human groups. Further, the neurodynamic events underlying laughter production – and particularly the form of the neural entropy gradients – are congruent with a sentic hypothesis about the different emotional contents of laughter and their specific effects on bonding dynamics.
The new behavioural and neurodynamic tenets introduced about this unusual sound feature of our species justify the ubiquitous presence it has in social interactions at large and along the life cycle of the individual. Laughter, far from being a curious evolutionary relic or a rather inconsequential innate behaviour, should be considered as a highly efficient tool for inter-individual problem solving and for maintenance of social bonds.
Laughter, the authors would conclude, has been evolutionarily kept and augmented as an optimized tool for unconscious cognitive-emotional problem solving, and at the same time as a useful way to preserve the essential fabric of social bonds in close-knit groups and within human societies at large.
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