You know what? We don’t really know. That is what’s so awesome about science – it does not take long to find questions no one has yet found the answers to…the challenge is thinking what experiments you could do to try to build an answer.
So what do we know? Well, laughter isunique to humans. It’s also universal. Eery baby in every culture learns to laughbefore they can talk. If you ever meet someone who does not speak your language, laughing is a good way of communicating.
Apes do something a bit like laughing. They make panting gunts when playing or being tickled, so probably laughter evolved from panting noisily.
Laughter is clearly an adaptation for social living. We very rarely laugh when alone, and we laugh more when we are trying to show the people we are with we want to be friends. People laugh together to make their bonds stronger, but laughing ‘at’ someone is equally an important social tool….people don’t like being laughed at, and will often try to either conform to the prevailing social norm or accept the ostracism and leave the group to avoid it. When someone laughs at someone, it is normally a form of social disapproval. So we can understand how laughter works, by why it evolved to be the way it did is still a mystery!