Why do we laugh? The science of laughter

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Sometimes, you have to laugh.

And there are times when you can’t stop laughing.

So how much actual control do you have - or do you lose - when you do have to laugh? And is laughter really the best medicine?

On this week's Futureproof, Jonathan spoke to Professor Sophie Scott of University College London, who has been researching the neuroscience of laughter.

You can listen back to the full show below:

Studying laughter is not always an easy task. In an article for the Guardian last year, Professor Scott wrote "generally, in psychology, we aren't too worried whether our participants feel odd, exposed and uncomfortable, but studying laughter may force us to try and use more natural laughing situations".

On today's show, she explained how "laughter is hard to study because it is quite a fragile behaviour. You need to have quite a lot of things in place for it to occur. People need to feel comfortable... you need to feel quite safe to be laughing. It's quite a risky behaviour, you're quite helpless when you're really laughing... It makes it very difficult to study it in the lab".

"The other thing that's difficult about it, is that we tend not to notice when we've been laughing. If you ask people how often they laugh, they will always without exception underestimate how frequently they do it," she added.

Below you can see one of the experiments carried out by Professor Scott and Dr Steve Cross:

 

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