This opinion piece aims to tackle the biological, psychological, neural and cultural underpinnings of laughter from a naturalistic and evolutionary perspective. A naturalistic account of laughter requires the revaluation of two dogmas of a longstanding philosophical tradition, that is, the quintessen tial link between laughter and humour, and the uniquely human nature of this behaviour. In the spirit of Provine’s and Panksepp’s seminal studies, who firstly argued against the anti-naturalistic dogmas, here we review com pelling evidence that (i) laughter is first and foremost a social behaviour aimed at regulating social relationships, easing social tensions and establish ing social bonds, and that (ii) homologue and homoplasic behaviours of laughter exist in primates and rodents, who also share with humans the same underpinning neural circuitry. We make a case for the hypothesis that the contagiousness of laughter and its pervasive social infectiousness in everyday social interactions is mediated by a specific mirror mechanism. Finally, we argue that a naturalistic account of laughter should not be intended as an outright rejection of classic theories; rather, in the last part of the piece we argue that our perspective is potentially able to integrate previous viewpoints—including classic philosophical theories—ultimately providing a unified evolutionary explanation of laughter.

The naturalistic approach to laughter in humans and other animals: towards a unified theory

Elisabetta Palagi
Primo
;
2022-01-01

Abstract

This opinion piece aims to tackle the biological, psychological, neural and cultural underpinnings of laughter from a naturalistic and evolutionary perspective. A naturalistic account of laughter requires the revaluation of two dogmas of a longstanding philosophical tradition, that is, the quintessen tial link between laughter and humour, and the uniquely human nature of this behaviour. In the spirit of Provine’s and Panksepp’s seminal studies, who firstly argued against the anti-naturalistic dogmas, here we review com pelling evidence that (i) laughter is first and foremost a social behaviour aimed at regulating social relationships, easing social tensions and establish ing social bonds, and that (ii) homologue and homoplasic behaviours of laughter exist in primates and rodents, who also share with humans the same underpinning neural circuitry. We make a case for the hypothesis that the contagiousness of laughter and its pervasive social infectiousness in everyday social interactions is mediated by a specific mirror mechanism. Finally, we argue that a naturalistic account of laughter should not be intended as an outright rejection of classic theories; rather, in the last part of the piece we argue that our perspective is potentially able to integrate previous viewpoints—including classic philosophical theories—ultimately providing a unified evolutionary explanation of laughter.
2022
Palagi, Elisabetta; Caruana, Fausto; de Waal, Frans B. M.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11568/1155220
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