social laughter is correlated with an elevated pain threshold

R. I. M. Dunbar, R. Baron, A. Frangou, E. Pearce, E.J.C. van Leeuwen, J. Stow, G. Partidge, I. MacDonald, V. Barra, M. van Vugt

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    Abstract

    Although laughter forms an important part of human non-verbal communication, it has received rather less attention than it deserves in both the experimental and the observational literatures. Relaxed social (Duchenne) laughter is associated with feelings of wellbeing and heightened affect, a proximate explanation for which might be the release of endorphins. We tested this hypothesis in a series of six experimental studies in both the laboratory (watching videos) and naturalistic contexts (watching stage performances), using change in pain threshold as an assay for endorphin release. The results show that pain thresholds are significantly higher after laughter than in the control condition. This pain-tolerance effect is due to laughter itself and not simply due to a change in positive affect. We suggest that laughter, through an endorphin-mediated opiate effect, may play a crucial role in social bonding. © 2011 The Royal Society.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1161-1167
    Number of pages7
    JournalProceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences
    Volume279
    Early online date14 Sep 2011
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2012

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