STATES CHRONICLE – When people say that laughter is the universal medicine, they are actually at least half right. Because even though laughter may not actually heal medical conditions, it is definitely universal. And I don’t just mean that in the way that everybody laughs, although they obviously do, but in the way that different laughter types can be identified regardless of the culture in which they originate.
In one of the most interesting studies on the matter, a team of researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles proved that a second of laughter can reveal your relationship with someone. This happens across all cultures, regardless of the age of the people laughing or any other variables.
Published on Monday Morning in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study presents a very simple, yet interesting experiment. Pairs of college students were recorded having conversations and laughing. Some were friends, while others did not know each other. Then, the conversations were deleted, and all that was left of the recording were one second-long audio clips of laughter.
Next, the study’s lead author, psychology Dr. Gregory Bryant, asked volunteers around the world to listen to the laughter clips and to attempt to realize whether the two were friends or strangers. The experiment was held in 24 different societies around the globe, ranging from Peruvian villages, to indigenous tribes in New Guinea, and even cities in China and India.
While the volunteers weren’t perfect at the task, with only about a 60 percent rate of success on average, the really impressive thing is that the same percentage was present throughout all the cultures. This leads to the idea that when mistakes were made they were made because of how the initial participants socialized with each other in the first place.
It turns out that while the volunteers were particularly adept at telling if girls were friends or strangers, the situation was slightly different for guys. But the results are impressive nonetheless. And the most impressive part, at least according to experts on the matter, was the consistency and homogeneity between participants.
For example, a member of the Hazda tribe of Tanzanian hunter-gatherers could ascertain whether two girls in New York were friends simply by listening to them laugh for only a second, as did an old Indian man in Mumbai and a young Indonesian villager.
This speaks volumes about how laughter is an evolutionary process, and how it ties into our genetics more than it ties into our culture. This means that the study will be useful to more than a single branch of science, as it ties into biology, genetics, and even anthropology.
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