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4 Fascinating Discoveries About Laughter

Will you get a chuckle from our four fascinating discoveries about one of our most ancient forms of expression and communication? 

Laughter has surprisingly little to do with jokes and humor: Most laughter does not come from listening to funny stories. Robert Provine, a neuroscientist from the University of Maryland, found that we're 30 times more likely to laugh at something when we are talking to our friends, even if what they're saying isn't really funny. In this instance, laughter helps communicate to our conversational partners that we like and empathize with them. In other cases, we may use laughter to disguise our nervousness or to ease tension.

It's not just the humor that makes a joke funny
People find jokes funnier when they are told by someone they know, especially if they consider that person funny. A clever cartoon, explains Bob Mankoff, the humor and cartoon editor at Esquire, seems even funnier "if there are also other variables we like, like the drawing is good, or the comedian is one we admire, or a person we don't like is being put down."

It will not help you lose weight
While laughter has been shown to improve your health in many ways, it does not burn more calories than going for a run, sadly. Although laughing does raise a person's energy expenditure and heart rate by about 10 to 20 percent, you would have to laugh solidly for up to three hours to burn off a bag of potato chips.

Humans aren't the only ones who do it
Researchers in England who spent several months with captive chimpanzee colonies found that the primates laughed all the time. Usually, the laughter came from spontaneous reactions to physical contact, such as wrestling, chasing, tickling or just being surprised. Others have found evidence that rats laugh in a high-pitched, ultrasonic kind of way -- though rat pups laugh far more often than the adults.

It's a universal language
Laughter sounds basically the same in every culture, leading some researchers to believe that laughter somehow connected our human ancestors wherever they encountered each other. In fact, according to the University of Kentucky, the sound of laughter is so common and familiar that it can be recognized if played backward.