Educational CyberPlayGround

Learn about the importance of play and laughter Science Research in Learning

Evolutionary origin for laughter

We need laughter play joy in our lives because
that is the type of creature that we are.

Laughter is universal. It crosses age, culture and gender
and has always been considered good for us.

Laughter and Learning:

Fun Learning Games

Come play with us. It could be the most important work you've ever done.

Everybody can laugh at 4 months - and other species laugh too.

Laughter seems to be done by all people and all cultures


Laughter has even been described in rats, so it's at least possible that there is more laughter out there in the mammal kingdom. And intriguingly, wherever you find laughter, its roots are in tickling and play from humans to gorillas to rats. All mammals play when they are juveniles and some mammals (like humans, otters, rats and dogs) play through their whole lives. Maybe laughter has evolved to be an important signifier of play - a sign that we're having fun, no-one is going to get hurt and this is all a game.
These non-verbal expressions are frequently associated with expressions of emotion. The emotions themselves are called the "basic" ones, because they're recognised by all human groups and are also found in other mammals. This explains why some emotions are quite similar across species - think about similarities between the face of an angry human and an angry wolf. People recognise laughter as laughter even if it is produced by someone from a very unfamiliar culture.
We are certainly not the only animals that laugh. Laughter has been well described in other primates such as gorillas, chimpanzees and orang-utans - as shown in this video, where a zookeeper is talking about the slightly nerve-shredding activity of tickling a gorilla and how it makes her laugh.

We have powerful systems that allow us to live in the world in a certain way and if we build social structures where these are not permitted and encouraged, especially in young children, I think we're going down the wrong path.

2016 Ha ha HA Haha. The Sound Of Laughter Tells More Than You Think A hearty, belly laugh means the same thing on every continent: joy. But when we laugh with someone else, our chuckles may divulge more than we realize. Scientists have found that people around the world can tell whether folks are friends or strangers by listening to them laughing together. And the ability transcends culture and language.

Marx Brothers Chico and Harpo Play and Laugh with music


Laughter? It's a funny business 3/13/02
Children laugh 400 times a day up to 4 years old, while adults laugh 15 times a day. Laughing is an underestimated psychological tool in the classroom environment reducing workplace stress.

We laugh more frequently than we eat, sing or have sex. So why do we know so little about it? David Derbyshire investigates. Smile - A collection of 17 muscles around their mouth contorts and their eyes crease up. Laughter reduces anxiety and lowers blood pressure. Laughter - a series of short vowel-like notes, each around 75 milliseconds long, repeated at regular intervals 210 milliseconds apart. Robert Provine, one of the world's leading authorities on laughter, author of Laughter: A Scientific Investigation says laughter occurs during playful behaviour and social bonding. "Clues to the origin of laughter can be seen in our nearest relatives, the great apes. Chimpanzees make a "ha-ah" panting noise when tickled or playing which is similar to laughter."" It may have evolved as a signal of reassurance and safety - a way of letting others in a group know that there is no danger".

A pre-human evolutionary origin for laughter could also explain why it is still present in deaf and blind infants, and why it fulfils the same role - and sounds the same - in people from different cultures.
Robert Provine, a psychologist at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County who has studied the laughter of common chimps, thinks this field of research has a bearing on other big questions, such as the evolution of speech.
In chimps, he says, laughter is a breathy, panting sound involving both inhalation and exhalation, while the human laugh is a single, "chopped" exhalation. "That indicates why we can talk and chimpanzees can't," he said. "People have shown that chimps have symbolic capacity in that they can sign. Although chimpanzees can recognise many spoken words, they can't produce the sounds."
Provine believes that the difference was driven by the evolution of bipedality in humans. "Walking upright provides independence between breathing and running, which does not exist in other animals. All quadrupedal animals have a one-to-one relationship between breathing and running." And that, he says, is why chimps laugh as if they had been running and were out of breath.
But when bonobos stand, they straighten up more than chimps, and their posture more closely resembles that of humans - which could explain why their laughter is also more similar.
The findings was presented at a meeting of the German Primate Society in Leipzig, Germany at the beginning of October. [1]

There is new evidence that laughter is much more than this. It leads to the playfulness of childhood and begins our interaction with the world around us. Yet there are a growing number of children who cannot play normally, who are uncontrolled and disruptive. Now research into the value of play is challenging the accepted treatment of these hyperactive children. http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/horizon/beyondtrans.shtml

Phonological jokes lit up the right temporal lobe, where alternative word meanings are processed. http://www.discover.com/may_02/featbiology.html

Literacy Study
Laughter and Play

Presentation by Dean Shibata (and colleagues from the Univ Rochester Medical Ctr) at the last annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America showed:

Whether overheard in a crowded restaurant, punctuating the enthusiastic chatter of friends, or as the noisy guffaws on a TV laugh track, laughter is a fundamental part of everyday life. It is so common that we forget how strange-and important-it is.

"Invention at Play" Examines how "play" -- the ordinary work of childhood -- connects with the creative impulse. http://www.si.edu/lemelson/centerpieces/iap/index.html
Read about inventors of the ski, sailboard, surgical robot, unfolding structures, water purifier, barbed wire, Velcro, Kevlar, post-it note, microwave, high-efficiency wind turbine, & telephone. Learn about Edison's Invention Factory or the Linux computer operating system. See sketches of the first telephone. Try your hand at a puzzle or word game, or draw your own sketch online.


"You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation." ~ Plato

Indeed, laughter is a "speaking in tongues" in which we're moved not by religious fervor but by an unconscious response to social and linguistic cues. "Laughter seems to be an ancestral, ancient behavior," says Panksepp.

Laughter is correlated with activity in the anterior supplemental motor area (associated with planning movement and speech) Stripped of its variation and nuance, laughter is a regular series of short vowel-like syllables usually transcribed as "ha-ha," "ho-ho" or "hee-hee." These syllables are part of the universal human vocabulary, produced and recognized by people of all cultures. The medial ventral prefrontal cortex - the laughter circuit has physical, emotional, and cognitive components, Semantic jokes lit up the brain's posterior temporal lobe, where the semantic network is located.

Robert R. Provine, Ph.D.
Is the world's leading expert on the physiology, psychology and sociology behind such involuntary human behaviors as laughter and yawning. Provine believes that laughter is a primitive social interaction we share with other primates. Human laughter patterns ( the infectious power of laughter)- are different from those of chimpanzees, however, and Provine believes it's our upright stance that allows us to produce a variety of sounds, including speech. NEWS ARTICLE

Laughter originated in primates before humans, and that it represents a universal signal of wellbeing in a playful situation. In that way, it helps to regulate social interactions.

"Dr Elke Zimmermann of the Institute of Zoology at the Tieraerztliche Hochschule, in Hanover, told a recent conference of the German Primate Society. The sounds made by the bonobo when tickled during its first year of life were carefully recorded at Wuppertal Zoo eight years ago by another researcher, Birgit Förderreuther, who was unable to continue the study due to illness, the report says. Now Zimmerman has conducted a sophisticated analysis of the recordings and compared them with sounds made by human babies when they are tickled. She found that the bonobo's vocalizations followed broadly the same spectrographic pattern - a technique that depicts the changes in frequency and intensity of the sound over time - as that of human infants, except that the bonobo's laugh was at higher frequencies. Infant bonobos and humans both combine those sounds with a facial gesture known as a "relaxed open-mouth display". Zimmerman believes that her findings confirm a hypothesis that laughter originated in primates, as a universal signal of wellbeing in a playful situation to help regulate social interactions, the report says." Bob Beale ABC Science Online October 7 2003

Robert Provine, a psychologist at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County who has studied the laughter of common chimps, thinks this field of research has a bearing on other big questions, such as the evolution of speech. In chimps, he says, laughter is a breathy, panting sound involving both inhalation and exhalation, while the human laugh is a single, "chopped" exhalation. "That indicates why we can talk and chimpanzees can't," he said. " People have shown that chimps have symbolic capacity in that they can sign. Although chimpanzees can recognise many spoken words, they can't produce the sounds." Provine believes that the difference was driven by the evolution of bipedality in humans. "Walking upright provides independence between breathing and running, which does not exist in other animals. All quadrupedal animals have a one-to-one relationship between breathing and running." And that, he says, is why chimps laugh as if they had been running and were out of breath.

The First Laugh:
New Study Posits Evolutionary Origins Of Two Distinct Types Of Laughter.

Evolutionary origins of laughter
Scientists claim laughter originated from apes mimicking the panting of other apes during periods of play between 2 million and 4 million years ago. However, neuropsychological and behavioral studies have shown laughter can be more than just a spontaneous response to stimuli. Around 2 million years ago, humans evolved the capacity for willful control over facial motor systems, co-opting laughter for a number of novel functions, they hypothize.

Brian Knutson of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., Patricia Simonet of Sierra Nevada College in Lake Tahoe, Jaak Panksepp of Bowling Green (Ohio) University, Marc Bekoff of the University of Colorado in Boulder, Gordon Burghardt of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville theorizes about the evolution of play. Dogs, Rodents, and other non human primates laugh. http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20010728/fob9.asp

Dogs - Last winter and spring, Patricia Simonet http://www.sover.net/~mpbodin/doglaughter.htm
who has taught animal behavior at Sierra Nevada College in Lake Tahoe, and two undergraduate researchers studied a specific sound that dogs make while playing and that spurs dogs to play when they hear it. The researchers are confident in calling that sound a laugh, even though it sounds nothing like human laughter. "Referring to the vocalization as a laugh was a decision I did not take lightly," says Simonet. "I hesitated because of the dreaded curse, being accused of anthropomorphism."The concept of animal laughter is controversial among scientists. <snip>

Source: "With extensive chimp research behind her, Simonet was open to the idea of animal emotions, but the laughing sound she discovered in dogs was unexpected: a "breathy, pronounced, forced exhalation" that sounds to the untrained ear like a normal dog pant.
But a spectrograph showed a burst of frequencies, some beyond human hearing. A plain pant is simpler, limited to just a few frequencies.
Hearing a tape of the dog laugh made single animals take up toys and play by themselves, Simonet said. It never initiated aggressive responses.
"If you want to invite your dog to play using the dog laugh, say `hee, hee, hee' without pronouncing the `ee,'" Simonet said. "Force out the air in a burst, as if you're receiving the Heimlich maneuver."
When she played a recording of a laughing dog at an animal shelter, Simonet found that even 8-week-old puppies reacted by starting to play, something they hadn't done when exposed to other dog sounds."

The Role of Humor in the Classroom

Taking Play Seriously

"The use of humor in the classroom echoes many of the theories and benefits that have been demonstrated in the effectiveness of humor as a business management tool. Even the most demanding teachers can soften their pursuit of perfection with a sense of humor and a caring attitude (Reavis, 1988). Humor aligns the students and teacher and links them through enjoyment. When people laugh together, they become united. Above all, humor should be natural and reflect the personality of the teacher. Forced humor is obvious and defeats the purpose (Kelly, 1983).
According to Cornett (1986) and Kelly (1983), humor can facilitate learning in the classroom in the following ways:

Humor can also be destructive in the classroom from the vantage point of both the teacher and the student. Embarrassment, sarcasm, and ridicule are forms of humor that should be absent from the classroom. Laughing with and not at students is important.
From a discipline point of view, inappropriate humor can destroy the mood of a class or distract attention. If allowed to careen out of control, humor can turn a classroom into a circus (Cornett, 1986).

Humor and the Educational Leader

Subject: The Middle Wife Especially for parents: The "Middle Wife" by an Anonymous 2nd grade teacher
I've been teaching now for about fifteen years. I have two kids myself, but the best birth story I know is the one I saw in my own second-grade classroom a few years back.
When I was a kid, I loved show-and-tell. So I always have a few sessions with my students. It helps them get over shyness and usually, show-and-tell is pretty tame. Kids bring in pet turtles,model airplanes, pictures of fish they catch, stuff like that. And I never, ever place any boundaries or limitations on them. If they want to lug it in to school and talk about it, they're welcome.
Well, one day this little girl, Erica, a very bright, very outgoing kid, takes her turn and waddles up to the front of the class with a pillow stuffed under her sweater.
She holds up a snapshot of an infant. "This is Luke, my baby brother, and I'm going to tell you about his birthday."
First, Mom and Dad made him as a symbol of their love, and then Dad put a seed in my Mom's stomach, and Luke grew in there. He ! ate for nine months through an umbrella cord."
She's standing there with her hands on the pillow, and I'm trying not to laugh and wishing I had my camcorder with me. The kids are watching her in amazement.
Then, about two Saturdays ago, my Mom starts saying and going, 'Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh!' Erica puts a hand behind her back and groans. "She walked around the house for, like an hour, 'Oh, oh, oh!' Now this kid is doing a hysterical duck walk and groaning.
My Dad called the middle wife. She delivers babies, but she doesn't have a sign on the car like the Domino's man. They got my Mom to lie down in bed like this." Then Erica lies down with her back against the wall.
And then, pop! My Mo m had ! this bag of water she kept in there in case he got thirsty, and it just blew up and spilled all over the bed, like psshhheew!" This kid has her legs spread with her little hands miming water flowing away. It was too much!
Then the middle wife starts saying 'push, push,' and 'breathe, breathe. They started counting, but never even got past ten. Then, all of a sudden, out comes my brother. He was covered in yucky stuff that they all said it was from Mom's play-center, so there must be a lot of toys inside there." Then Erica stood up, took a big theatrical bow and returned to her seat. I'm sure I applauded the loudest. Ever since then, when it's show-and-tell day, I bring my camcorder, just in case another "Middle Wife" comes along.

Cognitive Skills permit us to observe and analyze incongruities in daily life and comment on them in a perceptive manner, resulting in humor. Cognitive skills and background experiences increase as we become adults, thus providing fertile ground for viewing situations and problems in a humorous light.
Educational leaders who can effectively introduce humor into their repertoire of management skills are indeed fortunate. It will allow them to praise or scold performance, unite or isolate individuals or groups, and encourage or discourage a work atmosphere that is inviting and conducive to creativity and productivity. Even the negative aspects of a job can be achieved more effectively and humanely with humor.
Certainly the skills and warnings that have been seen in the use of humor in the corporate world are applicable to an educational setting. In fact, they probably already exist to a large degree because of the daily contact with children. Where but in a child do we see such uninhibited and exuberant humor on a daily, even hourly basis? Most teachers could write a book about the funny incidents that have occurred in their classrooms.
Most experienced teachers will confirm that humor can, indeed, make life in the classroom more productive and tolerable. During a tense moment, a bit of laughter can relieve the tension or conflict. Humorous stories or examples help students remember important information. Students are eager to know the outcome of an appropriate joke or a suspenseful event. Humor can also unite the members of a class and help them persevere in even the most dull and mundane tasks. The most effective teachers are always aware of the appropriateness of their humor to the situation and to the level of students they teach.
The use of humor with adults is equally important. Teaching is a stressful job, full of daily decisions and a high level of responsibility. Teachers relish their time with colleagues, away from the rat race of the classroom. An administrator can use the same techniques of humor and levity in helping teachers respond to district regulations, parental demands, and school goals. Teachers who come to school happy, enjoy their work environment, and appreciate their colleagues and bosses will be much more productive and willing to satisfy the demands that are made of them.
While the use of humor as a management tool has not been well documented by empirical research, its constructive (and destructive) effects are demonstrated daily in the personal, educational, and corporate domains. Certainly individuals who exercise their humor in a positive way have a personal magnetism that draws others to them. People like to feel good, be complimented for their successes, and exist in a world free from tension and strain. Humor has the ability to assist with all these goals.
In a world where employees spend an increasing amount of their time at work, any strategy that improves mental happiness and productivity is worth exploring. Especially in the world of education, where work days extend to after-school activities, parent conferences, and grading papers at home, the ability to add humor and laughter to a stressful job will help to increase resourcefulness and effectiveness among employees.


~ Linda Moody Wallinger: Don't smile before Christmas: The role of humor in education
National Association of Secondary School Principals. NASSP Bulletin. May 1997.Vol.81, Iss. 589; pg. 27, 8 pp



Manoa man singled out as happiest. The married, Jewish local father of two was selected by statistics.


The happiest man in America likes to laugh and be intellectually stimulated, lives with a frisky, oversized puppy, cooks kosher meals for young scholars at his home in Manoa — and enjoys the love of a good woman he's been married to for the last 35 years. Alvin Kuo Wong, 69, was singled out as the happiest man in a short newspaper article tucked away in the middle of the Sunday New York Times Week in Review section. His phone hasn't stopped ringing since.

"This has been crazy," Wong said yesterday after being interviewed by radio stations, television reporters and newspapers from across the country.

The Times relied on a formula called the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index and asked Gallup to come up with a statistical composite for the happiest person in America.

Gallup said this hypothetical person would be a tall, Asian-American, observant Jew who is at least 65 and married, has children, lives in Hawaii, runs his own business and has a household income of more than $120,000 a year.

The Times then called Oahu's three Jewish synagogues to see whether such a person exists.

There are only a handful of Asian-American men who practice Judaism in Honolulu, said Wong and his wife, Trudy Schandler Wong, who belong to two of the synagogues.

When factoring in key data such as age, marital status, parenthood and income, Wong was the only man on Oahu who fit all the criteria, Trudy Wong said.

He's a 5-foot-10 Chinese-American who converted to Judaism, the father of two adult children and the founder of two health care management businesses who is in the process of starting a nonprofit group devoted to sharing resources to cancer patients and their families.

As the Wong's rambunctious golden-doodle puppy, Samuel Sprocket Wong, bounced off the furniture yesterday, Alvin said one of the keys to happiness was instilled in him early from his mother, Honolulu-born Sun Lin Wong.

"My mom always said, 'Don't do things just for money. Do what makes you want to get up in the morning. Do what makes you happy.'"

The Wongs like to throw parties in their spacious kitchen and serve kosher food that Alvin cooks on their backyard grill and oversize, adjacent wok.

At Thanksgiving, the Wongs typically host 40 people or more and serve kosher kalua turkey.

Yesterday the Wong's backyard was still set up from the brunch they threw on Sunday for a group of young scholars studying at the East-West Center, where Trudy sits on the board of the Friends of the East-West Center.

They've been hosting East-West Center scholars for years and have been deluged with e-mails from their friends from as far away as Pakistan, Israel and Malaysia ever since the Times article spread across the Internet.

"Surround yourself with young people," Alvin said. "They give you energy and have a different view than old folks."

His other keys to happiness?

» "Don't get stuck. Embrace change."

» "Have a sense of humor — especially about yourself. If you can't laugh at yourself, then you're going to have a hard life."

» "Surround yourself with good friends."

» "You're never too old to learn."

» "Religion is very important. It grounds you. It makes you humble."

» "It's important to be comfortable but money doesn't make you happy. Look at all of the rich celebrities who are in trouble. They have all the money in the world, and they're not happy."

» "Family is the core. It's everything."

The Wongs certainly have had their share of hard times — especially when Trudy's first three pregnancies ended in tragedy, and in 1981 when Alvin's father, Trudy's father and her grandmother all died in the same year.

"When life throws you guavas, you make guava juice," Wong said. "That's when I rely on my religion, good friends and my wife. In tough times you can fall back on them like it's comfort food."