Laughter Can Make People Reveal Their Secrets

7 Apr

A very happy, natural image of a girl and her pet sharing a treat together. | Sharon Vos-Arnold via Getty Images

They say laughter is the best medicine, but new research suggests it could also make people more likely to reveal their secrets.

A study published in Human Nature found that cracking up is a catalyst for opening up: It makes people more likely to share personal details about themselves.

To conduct their experiment researchers at University College London split 122 students into groups of four people. The groups were then shown separate 10-minute mood-induction videos: One meant to prompt a kind of laugh-out-loud laughter (a stand-up performance by comedian Michael McIntyre), one meant to stimulate pleasant feelings (an excerpt from “Planet Earth,” that depicted relaxing landscapes and animals) and one meant to induce neutral feelings (an instructional golf video — snooze). Though subjects did not interact with other until after viewing the clips, they watched the scenes in groups of four, based on the premise that laughter is contagious. Research shows that people are 30 times more likely to audibly chuckle when in a social setting.

Researchers discovered that the groups of students who had watched the stand-up routine were most likely to disclose intimate details about their own lives. Sentences like, “Half of my favorite films are (embarrassingly) Disney films,” and
“In January I broke my collarbone falling off a pole while pole dancing,” are examples of “highly intimate disclosure statements.” Statements that were most limited in self-disclosure (and a bit mundane), like “I am from Cheltenham,” and “I am at Worcester College in my first year,” were most prevalent among the groups who had been shown the clips meant to induce neutral or pleasant feelings.

The study’s authors hypothesize that laughter is a social coaxer, making people feel more relaxed about the details they communicate. “Given the importance of disclosing behaviors in facilitating the development of intense social bonds, it is possible that the act of laughing may temporarily influence the laugher’s willingness to disclose personal information,” the study reads.

This could potentially explain why you may think your best friends are also your funniest friends; laughter makes people more comfortable letting their guards down, which makes them feel more connected (less small talk, more real talk). Laughter and general playfulness are linked to stress relief, healthy blood sugar and blood pressure levels as well as a stronger immune system. Below, find a fabulous llama and a pug reenacting her favorite TV sitcom to hopefully reap some of these wonderful benefits tied to a hearty bellow.