Humans start laughing very early in their life, in response to tickle, play, or humor. Laughter is contagious, and seems to play an important role in bonding: Laughing together makes people feel closer to each other and facilitates cooperation. However, despite its pervasiveness and significance in human life, a deep understanding of the function of laughter and the mechanisms linking it to bonding, is still lacking. Being a positively valenced, rhythmic audiovisual social signal, laughter possesses all the necessary characteristics to induce interpersonal synchrony between people. Interpersonal synchrony facilitates cooperative action and increases affiliation, rapport and prosocial behavior. Thus, it might be the core mechanism making laughter an effective bonding tool. Such a mechanism might be in place from early on in the course of human development and play an important role in establishing the first important peer relationships in early childhood.
This project aims at unveiling the functional mechanisms of laughing together, using a developmental social neuroscience approach and combining behavioral, autonomic and neural measures to investigate social laughter in adults and children. The results will clarify the role of laughter in social interactions, and pave the way for new lines of research and applications.
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