Two experiments were conducted to test the proposal that laughter is a pain antagonist. In Experiment I, thresholds for pressure-induced discomfort of 20 male and 20 female subjects were measured after each subject listened to a 20-min-long laughter-inducing, relaxation-inducing, or dull-narrative audio tape or no tape. Discomfort thresholds were higher for subjects in the laughter- and the relaxation-inducing conditions. In Experiment II, 40 female subjects were matched for pressure-induced discomfort thresholds. Their discomfort thresholds were measured after they listened to a laughter-inducing, interesting narrative, or uninteresting narrative audio tape, completed a multiplication task, or experienced no intervention. Discomfort thresholds increased for subjects in the laughter-inducing condition. Laughter, and not simply distraction, reduces discomfort sensitivity, suggesting that laughter has potential as an intervention strategy for the reduction of clinical discomfort.
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Cogan, R., Cogan, D., Waltz, W. et al. Effects of laughter and relaxation on discomfort thresholds. J Behav Med 10, 139–144 (1987). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00846422