You’re Not The Only One Who Laughs January 2, 2008Posted by Mrs Weird Scientist in Animals, Evolution, Psychology and Behavior, Think About It.
Tags: ancestor, empathy, laughter, orangutans
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If you thought humans were the only ones who laughed, think again. A new study has suggested that the roots of laughter might have stemmed from a primate ancestral to humans and modern apes. Researchers discovered that orangutans not only mimic the facial expressions of laughter but they also have a sense of empathy that is an important part of laughter.
Think about the types of expressions you make when having a good laugh! For most of us, we open our mouths and then emit all sorts of happy noises (some a bit stranger than others!). Orangutans have an open-mouthed expression that is their version of human laughter.
In a study led by Davila Ross from the University of Portsmouth, England and Elke Zimmerman of the University of Veterinary Medicine in Hanover, Germany, observation of the play behavior for 25 orangutans showed some interesting results regarding their facial expressions. The gaping, wide mouth that can occur during laughter was seen and copied by orangutans. If one orangutan showed a gaping mouth, another would quickly do the same. On top of that, they picked up the expressions so rapidly that it seems these expressions are involuntary. What do you think that means? Laughter is contagious!
So, not only are humans’ good moods contagious, but the moods of orangutans are too. The finding is particularly neat because it shows that our orangutan relatives also experience empathy. Plus, it suggests this trait evolved from a common ancestor. Laugh, and the whole world laughs with you. At least, the phrase is true for humans and orangutans!