Laughter is a natural reaction that occurs in both humans and animals. A rat being tickled, chimpanzees aggressively play fighting, or a stand-up comedian telling the funniest anecdotes. That said, many experts have argued that what simply separates human laughter experiences from those of animals is language or words.
At its heart, laughter is a contagious social interaction. We all have that friend whose laugh is funnier than the actual joke and that moment where we can’t help but join along when everyone starts breaking down. It is a positive social cue that can signal if we like someone, agree with them, or feel like we are part of the group.
Lastly, neuroscientist Sophie Scott argues that laughter is a means of emotion regulation. After having a few drinks in, a friend attempts to perform a stunt, fails and lands flat on his bum. Only the truest of friends would burst out laughing before actually helping out their fallen amigo (who by then would be in stitches like his buddies). In this, laughter helps regulate emotions by turning initially stressful situations of embarrassment or pain into something funny and enjoyable for everyone.