A new study recently published in the journal Evolution & Human Behavior shows that laughter plays an important role in primate social bonding. Researchers formed “laughter groups” of people to demonstrate that laughter can increase the size of the social group that can bond at the same time. In the course of the research, however, it was also discovered that apes enjoy slapstick humor.
Robin Dunbar, professor of evolutionary psychology at the University of Oxford and co-author of the study, told Discovery News that language-based jokes are (obviously) specific to humans. Slapstick humor, however, does trigger what in apes is considered to be laughter. In addition, Dunbar said apes play practical jokes on each other and laugh with schadenfreude at others’ misfortune.
These observations aren’t part of the study, however, and Dunbar said they are only her casual observations. The actual study deals with how laughter can increase the size of a bonding group. Researchers hung around in bars in the U.K., France, and Germany, watching groups of people who exhibited coordinated laughter. It showed that laughter can increase the size of groups who bond from one-on-one to several people.
AOL has a short video on the ape-slapstick connection, which is embedded below. I can’t recommend it, though, as the host is annoying and his lines are even worse. It is hard to tell whether the clip was made for children or if it is just inept. Watch at your own risk.