Laughter is the best medicine some people say. It is therapeutic, no doubt. Laughing is one of the best feelings. Especially when your belly hurts, right? Then you know you surely had a good laugh.
Laughter brings people together and strengthens relationships. It helps you reduce your stress levels and it improves your heart health. But what if I tell ya that these benefits are not something exclusively for humans?
As it turns out, laughter is not unique to human beings. New research has demonstrated that animals laugh too. So yes, you were right when you perceived your dog smiling at you.
For a while now, scientists have accepted the idea that human beings are not that different from other animals. Some animals have shown qualities present in humans, such as using tools, mourning, recognizing themselves in the mirror, and even performing mathematical operations. Why would laughter be an exception, right?
So far, people believed laughter was a unique quality present in humans. In the article Play vocalisations and human laughter: a comparative review in the Journal Bioacoustics, researchers of the University of California, Los Angeles, suggest that the ability of laughter is not exclusive to humans. In fact, it is widespread among animals. There are 65 species that can laugh.
Animal Laughter: A Communication Tool
The researchers discovered that the 65 species that laugh include: primates, cows, dogs, foxes, and some birds, such as magpies. All these animals participate in what scientists called “vocal play” which is another way to refer to laughter.
During the investigation, certain patterns in animal vocalizations were recorded, such as high or low tones, rhythmic patterns, and other characteristics of game sounds.
Game sounds, for instance, are an expression of laughter present in moments of tough play. Game sounds play an important role among animals: “These game sounds or vocalizations could give signals that allow the game to not escalate to more aggressive behavior”.
Laughter has a function in animals too as it is a way of communication.
“Laughter or these vocalizations seem to be a way of transmitting information about the states in which various animals are in a group and allowing coexistence: we provide information to others, showing that we are having fun and inviting others to join in,” stated one of the researchers.
This study is relevant not only because of the specific knowledge of the behavior patterns of certain animals but also because it helps to better understand the importance of laughter and play in the formation of groups: in many ways, laughter is a kind of social “glue”.