Scientists are finding how laughter — more so than alcohol — can be a great social lubricant. BPS reports that after laughing, people seem willing to divulge personal stories or quirks that they wouldn’t otherwise reveal.
In order to test this idea, Alan Gray and his team of researchers write:
“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 participants watched an “inoffensive observational comedy,” a clip from the nature documentary Planet Earth, or an instructional video on golfing. None of the clips was more or less positive than the last, but the comedy video differentiated itself by eliciting more laughter from participants.
After watching one of the three clips, the participants were instructed to write five pieces of personal information they were willing to share. Observers then rated how intimate these personal details were on a scale of one to 10. Researchers reviewed the observers’ ratings, and found that the comedy clips yielded more personal tales. For example, one participant in the comedy group wrote, “In January I broke my collarbone falling off a pole while pole dancing.”
The researchers believe “that this effect may be due, at least in part, to laughter itself and not simply to a change in positive affect.”
What’s more, when participants rated how intimate they thought their own writings were, compared to observers, they thought what they had disclosed was quite tame. This effect has led researchers to suggest that “laughter increases people’s willingness to disclose, but that they may not necessarily be aware that it is doing so.”
For businesses, you’ll be happy to hear that a recent study shows a meeting with laughter tends to garner more creative ideas.