A new study shows a laugh signifies more than humor and ridicule, researchers say they have found the first physiological evidence of the role of laughter during psychotherapy.
Current research shows laughter is more about communicating emotion than about humor. Researchers videotaped therapeutic sessions and took physiological measurements of both members of 10 patient-therapist pairs where patients were being treated for outpatient mood and anxiety disorders.
AdvertisementThere were 145 episodes of laughter during the sessions and patients laughed more than twice as often as therapists. However, patients' physiological response when therapists did laugh showed they felt validation of the emotions they were expressing. Laughter also showed to produce physiological responses in patients and therapists, with arousal strongest when both laughed together.
Researchers say their findings suggest that the patient who is laughing is trying to say more than has been expressed verbally to the therapist and that laughter is an indication that the subject is emotionally charged. Thus researchers say that therapists should pay closer attention to when patients laugh during therapy and for them to explore the meaning of what is said immediately before the laughter.