Article

Human Nature

, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 28-43

First online:

Laughter’s Influence on the Intimacy of Self-Disclosure

  • Alan W. GrayAffiliated withInstitute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London Email author 
  • , Brian ParkinsonAffiliated withDepartment of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford
  • , Robin I. DunbarAffiliated withDepartment of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford

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Abstract

If laughter functions to build relationships between individuals, as current theory suggests, laughter should be linked to interpersonal behaviors that have been shown to be critical to relationship development. Given the importance of disclosing behaviors in facilitating the development of intense social bonds, it is possible that the act of laughing may temporarily influence the laugher’s willingness to disclose personal information. We tested this hypothesis experimentally by comparing the characteristics of self-disclosing statements produced by those who had previously watched one of three video clips that differed in the extent to which they elicited laughter and positive affect. The results show that disclosure intimacy is significantly higher after laughter than in the control condition, suggesting that this effect may be due, at least in part, to laughter itself and not simply to a change in positive affect. However, the disclosure intimacy effect was only found for observers’ ratings of participants’ disclosures and was absent in the participants’ own ratings. We suggest that laughter increases people’s willingness to disclose, but that they may not necessarily be aware that it is doing so.

Keywords

Laughter Self-disclosure Social relationships Endorphins Social bonding