Scientists who have studied primates in the wild have learned that yawning is “catching.” Now researchers think that laughter is catching too.

In, Andrea Thompson quotes neuroscientist Sophie Scott as saying, “We’ve known for some time that when we are talking to someone, we often mirror their behavior, copying the words they use and mimicking their gestures. Now we?ve shown that the same appears to apply to laughter, too?at least at the level of the brain.”

Scott played a series of sounds?both positive and negative?to volunteers and measured their brain responses. All of them triggered responses in the part of the brain that prepares the muscles in the face to move in a certain way, depending on how the sound is interpreted.

This response was much higher for positive sounds, meaning that they are more “contagious” than negative sounds. In other words, we tend to smile when we hear someone else laughing. Scott thinks we tend to avoid negative sounds and the negative emotions they conjure up in us.

What does this mean for us? For one thing, this is a good reason to go see a funny film in a theater, along with a crowd of fellow laughers, rather than wait to rent it on DVD.

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