Laughter, the secret to making new friends

“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” It's often easy to break the tension in an embarrassing situation or establish a connection with someone we like. Except that sometimes it doesn’t work. Is laughter really a factor in bringing people together? And to what extent?

A uniquely human faculty, laughter is an important component in our society, demonstrated not only by numerous quotes, but also through the development of laughter therapies. It puts us in a good mood by reducing pain and stress, and improves health by stimulating the immune system. It not only contributes to individual well-being, but also strengthens social ties between friends... and that's not all.

Using students at Oxford University as their subjects, an English team of researchers studied the impact of laughter on human relationships. And when it comes to laughter, the English know what they’re talking about. The scientists observed the behavior of participants in various situations, and particularly their tendency to disclose personal information to strangers. To do so, over one hundred students who didn’t know one another were asked to silently watch a ten minute video. The students were divided into groups of four, and each watched one of three videos that differed in its ability to induce laughter, and more generally in the amount of positive emotion it aroused. The videos included a show by comedian Michael McIntyre, a video explaining the rules of golf, and an excerpt from a nature documentary. During this time, laughter was measured along with the emotional state of the volunteers at the end of the session. Finally, participants were asked to write a note to another participant to get to know each other better.

Without knowing it, the volunteers who laughed the most during the video also tended to share the most intimate information. For the study’s authors, it’s laughter, which causes the release of endorphins, the neurotransmitter responsible for the feeling of well-being and pleasure, that causes people to share more personal information, even with strangers.

To those of you who already use humor as a dating tactic, rest assured, your methods are backed by science!
Source: Gray A.W., Parkinson B., Dunbar R.I. Laughter’s Influence on the Intimacy of Self-Disclosure. Hum. Nat. 2015 Mar;26(1):28-43. doi: 10.1007/s12110-015-9225-8.

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