Psychology -- Laughter & Humor Essay

Total Length: 1026 words ( 3 double-spaced pages)

Total Sources: 1

Page 1 of 3

" Hence, Ayan adds, with laughter, the lives of people with elevated levels of cortisol might be saved. Arguably that's a bit of a stretch, but for the purposes of his article Ayan is justified in using it.

Keeping anxiety "at bay" through humor is the sum and substance of a 1990 study conducted by psychologists; 53 college students were told they were going to get an electric shock in 12 minutes albeit there was no such shock forthcoming. While waiting for this inevitable shock, some of the students were given a funny tape to watch while others watched a boring tape or nothing at all. The results were predictable: those exposed to humor "rated themselves as less anxious as the fictitious shock approached than did those in the other two groups" (Ayan).

In yet another study presented by Ayan to make his point, 56 women were asked to stick a hand in ice-cold water before, immediately after and 20 minutes following a "funny seven-minute film." There's more to the experiment than space in this paper to explain, but the upshot was that witnessing the humorous film "did boost pain tolerance in all the women." In fact, after being exposed to the comedy movie, all 56 of the women "required a long exposure to the water" to feel any pain, and all of the women participants could "tolerate longer submersions before pulling their hand out." Late in his article, Ayan asserts that beyond reducing pain, acting funny or doing funny things "can cultivate friendships" because it is a valid psychological assumption that "cheerful people have a lighthearted interaction style that facilitates bonding closely with others…"

My reaction to the article is that Ayan has done a very good and entertaining job making his point.
And even though he offers some generalizations without backing them up with empirical research, he does present studies that substantiate his positions. And while his assertions that the use of humor / laughter possess the potential to cure diseases seems to be off the charts of credulity, he certainly grabs the attention of the reader and stimulates thought. In that light, all good articles should do more than inform and entertain -- they should stimulate sharp thinking by the reader, and even motivate the reader to learn more about the subject through investigative research.

Meanwhile, a much-condensed version of what Ayan has presented should be shared in as many American venues as possible, because it is easy to believe -- even on the surface -- that laughing or engaging in humorous activities is a far better endeavor than carrying around anger at the most recent unfair event that came to pass. In schools, workplaces, community centers, hospitals, malls, even state legislatures and the U.S. Congress -- and every other public place where people gather or work -- more humor, more laughter, should be promoted, to bring people together even for a few moments of joy and relaxation.

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