Laughter is one of the many reflexes that humans—and some other species—have, much like sneezing, shivering, or yawning. However, unlike most reflexes, laughing seems to serve no biological purpose, making it a mystery to psychologists and neurologists alike. Lawrence Ian Reed, Ph.D., a clinical assistant professor at New York University, set out to answer why we laugh at “What’s So Funny? The Science of Humor and Laughter,” a program hosted by Think & Drink Different NYC.
Reed, who studies facial expression, emotion, and cooperation, explained that laughter is literally an inability to breathe normally, but the physical reaction feels good even though the person laughing is gasping for air. Since something pleasurable is in and of itself not necessarily a function, psychologists use reverse engineering to try and figure it out, which basically means taking humor and laughter apart and looking at its components and features to determine how and why it works. Continue reading