Laughter Is Relative

It is debatable whether laughter is a reflexive response to something, or is a kind of communication.

The responses of certain kinds of humour being extremely diverse suggests that laughter can be:

  1. A response to a sudden turn, something that surprises us or is against our expectation, but gets resolved in some manner.
  2. A means to release nervous energy.
  3. A kind of act that announces one’s dominant position, or a desire to increase interpersonal behaviour, or to encourage playfulness.


What You “Say” With Laughter

Laughter may relate to our own vulnerability or of other people and could be a way to express this feeling vocally.

  • Lifting Laughter: A way of positively signalling someone who made a fool of themselves that everything is okay and we all are susceptible to the same kind of errors and misfortunes.
  • Self-lifting Laughter: The person who made a fool of himself (or herself) often chuckles with embarrassment. This is self-lifting laughter, signalling that what the person went through is human, and could happen to anyone.


When one assumes that the other person’s status, position or respect is not deserving, or is misused, the expression of mutual vulnerability, that is laughter has a corrective effect.

When we laugh at someone, we signal that the person is not better than us or is not deserving of the status/position. This is known as ‘Lowering Laughter’.


If our own status or position is increased for some unjustifiable reason, we tend to laugh in a self-mocking manner, acting modestly. This is known as ‘Self-lowering laughter’.


Laughing when tickled is not reflexive and is mainly due to cognitive, emotional or social factors. There is often no tickle laughter when there is a scarcity of bonding, feeling or sensitivity.


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