ARTICLE: Clinical Psychology: Why Laughter is Contagious?

  1. Is laughter contagious?

The "mirror neurons" are responsible for the contagious effect of laughter. New tests have been found that confirm the contagious power of laughter. So, and regardless of the studies that have been done, who has not experienced at some time, how when a person starts to laugh, the rest of the group is infected and do the same, but do not know what they laugh nor why? In fact, it is a much-needed theory to study that helps in practical laughter therapies when we have to study under Clinical Psychology: Why Depression Is On the Rise?

Scientists explain it by attributing this reaction to the fact that we have a brain prepared for social relations, a brain that assures us the biological bases that favour interaction and empathy.

When the facial expression of a person is observed, a request is sent to the brain to extract the emotional meaning and imitate it unconsciously and in milliseconds, according to a research carried out by the social psychologists of the University of Wisconsin (United States). Adrienne Wood and Paula Niedenthal.

To reach this conclusion, which has been published in 'Trends in Cognitive Sciences' and collected by the Sinc platform, the researchers analyzed various psychological studies as well as the tests available for sensorimotor stimulation.

Thus, as you have seen, when you see someone's facial expression, you usually imitate it, even if it is unconsciously, and you extract the emotional meaning of what you see in a matter of milliseconds. This may explain why laughter and anger are contagious.

This gesture is associated with a certain emotion that the person has already experienced in the past. Therefore, in the opinion of the researchers, the psychological relationship would reveal an "important" role of the sensorimotor simulation in the recognition of emotions, since the process involves the somatosensory and motor systems, responsible for the stimulus-response system and the control of the movements.

  1. Mirror neuron

When we are in the company of cheerful and smiling people, we feel happy and want to laugh. This happens because when we perceive a happy atmosphere or an expression of the smiling face, nerve cells called "mirror neuron" are activated that impel us to smile.

It is called "mirror neurons" a class of neurons that are activated when a person or animal perform the same activity you are observing doing to another person or animal. They are neurons that are activated when you see an action.

The neurons of the person imitate as a reflex act what the other performs. Thus, the observer is performing the action of the person who is observing, therefore it is called "mirror".

These neurons play an important role within the cognitive capacities linked to social life, such as imitation and empathy, defined as the ability to put oneself in the place of the other.

Thanks to these neurons, together with other factors, the fundamental identification processes originate so that parents and people close to the children transmit their own traits and characters to the children. This is clearly reflected in babies, who tend to smile back at those who smile at them.

  1. A smiling and happy atmosphere

There is a natural tendency, in most people, to find an environment in which they can feel happier and happier. This is due to the contagion of positive emotions, how the environment in which we find ourselves affects us and how it predisposes us to a better state of mind and greater joy.

For centuries there are numerous philosophical trends that know the importance of laughter and the benefits it brings, promoting it in a practical way. Since antiquity in some cultures and civilizations meetings were held to practice laughter, in order to benefit from its therapeutic power and balance health. Keep in mind, that negative emotions are also contagious, so it is advisable to flee or distance yourself from those who transmit them to us.

  1. Laughter therapy

We can define laughter therapy as healing through laughter. This technique is based on the contagious capacity of laughter, using this contagion in group therapies.

There are some medical theories that attribute to laughter beneficial effects on health and well-being. More and more studies claim the therapeutic power of laughter and positive emotions.

There are laughter therapy schools and workshops where you can learn to laugh using techniques that help to release tension and laugh without thinking about other stressing things. Among them are the corporal expression, the game, the dance, breathing exercises, massages etc. These are techniques to laugh in a healthy and natural way, that comes from the heart, from the joy of living, as happens to children.

Sincere laughter brings many benefits: rejuvenates, eliminates stress, tension, depression, anxiety and fills us with energy and helps us to have a more optimistic view of things. This is because when we laugh we release endorphins, the so-called hormones of happiness, which are largely responsible for the feeling of well-being and satisfaction we experience with laughter.

Therefore, it is essential to try to laugh and look for an environment that can infect us with laughter. It is demonstrated that after a more or less long session of laughter therapy, people feel full, relaxed, energetic, happy. In short, laughter brings us great benefits and endless positive feelings.