Clowning Around: There’s nothing funny about biology… is there?

Assumption College Undergraduate

Science has gathered plenty of evidence to support the idea that “laughter is the best medicine,” and yet the biology behind humor remains something of a mystery.

Just as one recent Assumption student took on the biology of aggression as a research topic, maybe another will consider the polar extreme: humor.

Research demonstrates a number of physiological benefits to laughing out loud. Humor:

  • Improves mental function
  • Exercises and relaxes muscles
  • Stimulates circulation
  • Improves respiration
  • Decreases stress hormones
  • Increases immune system defenses
  • Increases production of endorphins

There’s nothing funny about biology Anybody who’s ever laughed (everybody) knows that it makes us feel good.  But do you  know why we laugh? Well, scientists don’t quite agree on any precise conclusions. There are several theories:

  • Some evolutionary biologists attribute it to early humans play-fighting, and laughter being a cue that the scene was safe.
  • Plato and Aristotle found laughter to be a source to show power — a superiority theory. Think “I’m laughing at you because you’re below me.”
  • Sometimes we laugh when we’re nervous — a coping mechanism.
  • Or sometimes when we’re surprised — think less surprise party and more the punch line of a joke — the idea that humor arises when people discover there’s an inconsistency between what they expect to happen, and what actually happens.
  • And what about laughter that comes from being tickled?

There are so many surprising directions in which biology can take. Assumption biology students gain foundations in such things as evolution, physiology and neuroscience. It’s a good foundation for a future biology student at Assumption to consider mixing their passion for research with their love of classic slapstick Three Stooges.

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