A woman in labor is having a terrible time and suddenly shouts out: "Shouldn't! Wouldn't! Couldn't! Didn't! Can't!"

"Don't worry," says the doctor. "These are just contractions."

There are many theories about what makes a joke funny. Incongruity is the presence of two incompatible meanings in the same situation.

I wanted to see if any other conclusions could be drawn from the literature on laughter and humor that has been published in English over the last decade.

After looking through more than 100 papers, I came to the conclusion that laughter is a tool nature may have given us to help us survive.

The physical features of laughter, the brain centers related to producing laughter, and the health benefits of laughter were all discussed in research papers.

There were more than 150 papers that gave evidence for the conditions that make humans laugh.

I was able to condense the process of laughter into three main steps by organizing all the theories into specific areas.

There is a chance that laughter may have been preserved by natural selection. It could explain why we like laughing people.

The evolution of laughter

The incongruity theory can be used to explain humor-driven laughter.

Laughing doesn't mean that things are out of step or incompatible. We find ourselves in a situation that subverts our expectations of normal life.

If we see a tiger walking down a city street, it would be frightening, but it is not comic. If the tiger rolls along like a ball, it becomes hilarious.

Homer Simpson is an anti-hero who makes us laugh when he falls from the roof of his house and bounces like a ball, or when he tries to wrestle Bart from his father.

The human experience is changing into a cartoon version of the world where anything can happen.

The event must be seen as harmless to make it funnier. We laugh because we acknowledge that the tiger or Homer's worlds are not real and that they don't hurt anyone.

We can do a three-step process to stop laughing. It needs a situation that makes you feel crazy or panicked.

The incongruous situation needs to be worked out and overcome. The release of laughter acts as a warning to bystanders that they are okay.

People have used laughter to show others that a fight or flight response is not necessary and that the threat has passed.

Laughing brings us together, makes us more connected, and signals the end of worry. Life affirming is the result of laughter.

The 1936 film Modern Times tells the story of a man and a robot in a factory.

The spectacle of a man reduced to a robot is a fiction and makes us laugh. He isn't a machine. There is no reason to be alarmed.

How humor can be effective

The joke at the beginning of this article starts with a scene from normal life, then turns into something a little strange and baffling, but which we eventually realize is not serious and very comical.

I showed in a previous study that laughter has an important role to play in our body's chemistry.

Laughing is a releasing mechanism for the body like weeping or chewing.

The brain centers that control fear and anxiety are the ones that control laughter. The release of laughter causes the body to relax.

Clown therapy studies show that humor can be used to help patients heal.

Blood pressure and immune defenses can be improved by humor.

It has been shown in research that humor is used to emphasize concepts and thoughts.

A more productive learning environment can be created by humor in the course material. Enhancing participation and increasing motivation are some of the benefits of humor in a teaching setting.

Love and laughter

There is a possibility that people fall in love with someone because they make me laugh. Being funny isn't the only thing that makes it happen. It could be a lot more complicated.

If someone else's laughter makes us laugh, that person is signaling to us that we are safe.

If our laughter is stimulated by their jokes, we can overcome our fears. We are more drawn to funny people if they inspire us to overcome our fears. That could explain why we like laughing people.

We don't think twice about laughing in today's world. It brings a sense of well-being to us, and we just enjoy it.

This very human behavior may have fulfilled an important function in terms of danger awareness and self-preservation.

When we have a brush with danger, we often laugh because of a sense of relief.

Carlo Valerio Bellieni is a professor at the university.

Under a Creative Commons license, this article is re-posted. The original article is worth a read.