A 1988 study by researcher Holdaway followed British police officers over two years with respect to humour and how it helps maintain social norms within the workplace and build cohesion between officers. Stories and jokes between new recruits and existing members helped transfer attitudes and feelings that were appropriate for the work environment. In essence, humour was use to welcome people in and also instruct them about how things work and what are the office norms. The research found that delivering messages with humour helps do it in a nonthreatening way.
Smiles and laughter are often mentioned in the same breath, but their origins and purpose come from quite different places. The smile stems from an appeasement gesture rather than playfulness as we saw previously while laughter appears to stem from humour. Some recent research shows that this is only one facet of the laugh. Dr. Robert Provine a psychologist from the University of Maryland measured laughs in shopping malls and on sidewalks and found that laughing came at the expense of comments that were far from humorous. Comments such as “I see your point” and “put those cigarettes away” caused people to burst into laughter showing that laughter is more of a way to bond and formulate social relationships then purely as the result of jokes. In fact, only ten to twenty percent of laughter came from anything that even resembled something funny, showing that it is actually the person that is humorous rather than the actual comment. In other words, people were laughing to maintain bonds with the joke teller instead of as a response to the actual joke.
He also found that subordinate people will laugh simply to appease more dominant people, and that dominant people exclude themselves from the laugh so as to maintain their dominance. Controlling laughter therefore, can help control our dominance or submission to others, as well as show our acceptance or rejection of others. Therefore, a polite laugh shows that we are at least “onboard” with a person even though we might not totally agree that what they have said is in fact funny.
Laughter is a form of mirroring and communicates mutual liking and well-being. It can also be used to reduce the harshness of comments or even to take comments back. Humour is an innate vocalization that fosters a sense of community and can help in learning and in creativity. It helps break down walls between different people and can act like a social lubricant to bind people together. Laughter is thirty times more likely to happen in a social setting rather than alone and studies have shown that people don’t really seem to care if the laugh is fake or real, they still tend to like people more when they laugh versus doing nothing at all. Laughing helps us build bonds and even fake laughs help because at least it shows that we are trying.