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University of Silesia in Katowice

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Laughter as element of therapy and building a long-term relationship

19.02.2024 - 15:34 update 27.02.2024 - 12:08
Editors: wc-a
Tags: 50 tygodni w Mieście Nauki

In each of the 50 Weeks in the City of Science, we publish a text about selected research conducted in a given topic by scientists from universities that are part of the Academic Consortium Katowice City of Science. The texts provide insight into the diversity of issues raised by scientists and show the research potential of the universities forming the consortium.

| Agnieszka Kliks-Pudlik |

Humour Week is the eighth of 50 weeks in the City of Science. Researchers from universities forming the Academic Consortium Katowice City of Science show that humour plays an important role in long-term relationships and that laughter therapy supports rehabilitation.

“During Humour Week, we want to show what science has to say about humour, laughter and smiling, and that humour itself is both a topic and a driving force of interesting scientific research conducted from very different perspectives”, emphasises Łukasz Jach, PhD, Assoc. Prof., curator of Humour Week, psychologist and sociologist associated with the Institute of Psychology at the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Silesia.

Śmiejąca się dziewczyna

Science proves that laughter is healthy | Photo by Gabrielle Henderson, Unsplash

Psychology of humour

Łukasz Jach, PhD, Assoc. Prof. deals with evolutionary psychology, the psychology of humour and the psychology of science.   He explains that finding one comprehensive method for examining humour that will fully capture its essence is simply impossible. “Humour serves many different functions in our lives. You can laugh at jokes alone in the privacy of your home, but at the same time humour often serves as an important tool in our contacts with other people. Therefore, each function requires a slightly different approach”, he adds.

In one of his latest publications, the scientist argues that humour plays an important role in long-term relationships. Łukasz Jach, PhD, Assoc. Prof. and his colleagues demonstrated, among others: that men report that they joke more than their women partners (which they themselves confirm), and they do it to emphasise their positive qualities. Additionally, men may be more willing to laugh at their women partners’ jokes years into the relationship than at the beginning.

Interestingly, a higher sense of match in the relationship was characteristic of people who laughed more often at their partners’ jokes, whose partners noticed this laughter more often and who better assessed the quality of their partners’ jokes. Additionally, men who rated the quality of their own jokes as worse, but the quality of their women partners’ jokes as better, declared a higher sense of match in their relationship.

In his other publication, the researcher argued that men who tend to tell jokes aimed at building a positive atmosphere in relationships with others are more focused on improving their own social image.

Łukasz Jach, PhD, Assoc. Prof. also devoted his popular science book Od ucha do ucha. Homo sapiens się śmieje (From ear to ear. Homo sapiens laughs) (Wydawnictwo Poznańskie, seria Zrozum) (Poznańskie Press, Understand series) to humour. Through the prism of psychology, anthropology and cognitive science, he lists the various functions of humour and the mechanisms of showing amusement. Moving from the concepts of the most famous Greek philosophers, through the results of the latest research, to cracking jokes –  he describes why something may be funny in the first place.

A humorous play on words

In turn, linguists are interested in linguistic humour, of which there are many varieties.

“These include irony and sarcasm, parody and satire, all kinds of jokes and word puns, in Polish most often referred to simply as wordplay. They can be found, among others: in advertising slogans (Żubr czeka na polanie) (Żubr is waiting in a clearing), slogans promoting places (Żyję i pracuję po łódzku) (I live and work in Łódź), titles of radio and television programmes (Cztery struny świata) (Four Strings of the World) and finally in the topics of a series of thematically related lectures (humorze i humorach) (About humour and moods)”, says Agnieszka Solska, PhD, DLitt from the Institute of Linguistics at the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Silesia.

In her latest research, the scientist took a closer look at the cultural embeddedness of language and tries, among other things, to find out where the phrase Pardon the pun used in English-speaking countries comes from, which signals the custom of apologising for a pun. She also tries to determine whether a war was actually declared on puns in a certain Asian country in 2014, and if so, why.

Laughter therapy

Laughter can also be an element of therapy. “Gelotherapy is a treatment method based on the assumption that spontaneous laughter helps relieve stress and alleviates conflicts and frustrations. During laughter therapy, participants laugh and gain distance from themselves and the problems they experience”, explains Joanna Smolarczyk, DPharm, MD, DHSc  associated with the Medical University of Silesia. She conducted research in which the elements of the rehabilitation programme included, among others, laughter therapy.

Gelotherapy can be used to prevent many diseases and actually contribute to improving the health of patients. According to some specialists, an appropriate dose of laughter supports the treatment of cancer and depression, protects against cardiovascular diseases, reduces pain, facilitates weight loss and has a beneficial effect on the condition of the skin.

Why is this happening? “Specific physiological reactions occur during laughter: the level of endorphins increases while the concentration of cortisol and adrenaline decreases, which reduces pain as well as the level of stress, and more air is inhaled, which leads to intense oxygenation of the body, and thus to the nourishment of all body cells”, says Joanna Smolarczyk, DPharm, MD, DHSc.

The full programme of Humour Week is available on the event website.

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