Magazine article Psychology Today

Wild Laughter

Magazine article Psychology Today

Wild Laughter

Article excerpt

WHEN A SLACK-MOUTHED chimpanzee lets loose a husky guffaw, you know he's having a good time. Homo sapiens isn't always so transparent-sometimes when we laugh, we're just being polite-but it turns out that when we really find something funny, we show hints ofthat happy chimp.

Just think of the last time you cracked up at your favorite comedy. The sound you made was probably relatively loud and high-pitched, open-throated and uncontrolled. "We think that these spontaneous laughs are produced by an emotional vocal system that's shared with many other animals," including primates, says UCLA psychology professor Gregory A. Bryant. In contrast to spontaneous laughter, volitional laughter-the kind we produce when we're humoring someone, or deceiving them, or being ironic-seems connected to a distinctly human speech system.

Bryant and evolutionary biologist C. …

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