My 4 and half years old son was often laughed by himself without unusual cause. That's made me wonder, what was happen with his strange attitude? I still didn't get it, why was he acted like that? Sometimes, he laughed loudly, and I must told him to stop laughing. Just like when I tickled his older sister, and he laughed loudly when my daughter threw my hand away. Despite of being as a stress release, what is laugh exactly?
Laugh, a complex reflex of the muscles of respiration, face and throat. It usually involves a series of involuntary spasmodic contractions of abdominal muscles, accompanied by contractions of cheek muscles (smile) and semiarticulate sounds. The response may undergo modification in that facial expressions, or vocalizations are altered, or absent, hence the expressions
silent laughter, or
The essence of laughter may be observed in many other species, and not just peculiar to man, such as crow, gull, hyena, jackass, monkey and ape. It has been learned that involuntary laughter may be produced by mild anesthetics such as nitrous oxide (laughing gas), or may be the result of various forms of accident, or disease in the brain.
One of these neurological disorders (pseudobulbar palsy) is known as
laughing sickness. A person with this disorder may laugh but feel sad, or he may cry but feel happy. The most common form of psychosis, schizophrenia, often includes involuntary mirthless laughter.
There is less agreement about what is laughable. Beyond tickling, laughter depends for the most part on learning. In man, normal laughter first occurs in the early months of life, as early as 12 weeks, or smiling at birth. D. H. Monro lists 4 main classes:
- Feelings of superiority, the attempt to aggrandize one's self.
- Incongruity, a response to the novel or bizarre.
- Release from restraint, as with the tendency to laugh after relief of frustration or pain.
- Ambivalence, the
giggle,in situations of embarrassment, where no clear course of action is perceived.
Monro's classification is probably incomplete, and Florence Justin, another student of this field, lists more categories:
- Surprise and defeated expectation.
- Joy, pleasure, and play.
- Social stimulation.
Moreover, she cities laughter as a possible defense mechanism, as a means to subconscious gratification, and as an energetic mechanism. That's why we feel better after laughing. I hope my son acts are just normal laughter, in quest for more attentions and affections.
- Sigmund Freud, Wit and Its Relations to the Unconscious (1905).
- Henri Bergson, Laughter (1911).
- Max Eastman, Enjoyment of Laughter (1936).
- D. H. Monro, Argument of Laughter (1951).
- Leonard Carmichael, Manual of Child Psychology (1954).
Source: Encyclopedia International by M. A. Wenger, University of California.