A new study has suggested that laughter is an effective catalyst for new relationships.
University College London in the UK found that sharing a few good giggles and chuckles makes people more willing to tell others something personal about themselves, without even necessarily being aware that they are doing so.
The act of verbally opening up to someone is a crucial building block that helps to form new relationships and intensify social bonds. Such self-disclosure can be of a highly sensitive nature, like sharing one's religious convictions or personal fears or a superficial tidbit such as one's favorite type of food.
To investigate the role and influence of laughter in this disclosure process, researchers gathered 112 students from Oxford University in England, into groups of four. The students did not know one another. The groups watched a 10-minute video together, without chatting to one another.
The participants who had a good laugh together shared significantly more intimate information than the groups who did not watch the comedy routine. Lead author Alan Gray suggests this is not merely because it is a positive experience, but because of the physiology behind a good laugh. It actually triggers the release of the so-called 'happy hormone' endorphin. The findings support the idea that laughter encourages people to make more intimate disclosures to strangers.
Interestingly, the person who disclosed information was seldom aware that he or she had done so. It was only the listener who realised that it had happened.
Gray added that this seems to be in line with the notion that laughter is linked specifically to fostering behaviors that encourage relationship development, since observer ratings of disclosure may be more important for relationship development than how much one feels one is disclosing, suggesting that laughter should be a serious topic for those interested in the development of social relationships.
The study is published in Springer's journal Human Nature.