Humor in Primates

by Lowan Stewart

(This page has been preserved from the old Primate Info Net)

I’ve done an extensive literary search on the subject of primate humor, and what I’ve discovered is that much investigation is warranted on the subject. A good place to start is Robert Provine’s Jan. 1996 article in American Scientist. I can answer questions about basic human and chimpanzee laughter physiology.

Most of the work I’ve done was on human humor physiology (gelotology), and as far as I know such research is virtually nonexistent on NHP’s. There are acoustical analysis and subjective observations, but no comprehensive studies of laughter’s physical evolution that I know of. The work on humans is quite enlightening, and I believe much will prove in common with NHP’s after further analysis. I have attached a short bibliography on human laughter physiology.

Lowan Stewart
135 Sombrio Dr.
Santa Fe, NM 87501
Phone: (505)982-6787
Fax: (505)986-9050


Apte, M. L. 1985. Humor and Laughter: An Anthropological Approach. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Averill, James R. 1969. Autonomic Response Patterns During Sadness and Mirth, Psychophysiology, Vol. 5(4).

Baker, K. H., Dillon, K. M., and Minchoff, B. 1985. Positive Emotional States and Enhancement of the Immune System. The International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine. Vol. 15: 13-18.

Berk, L. 1989. Neuroendocrine and stress hormone changes during mirthful laughter. American Journal of Medical Sciences 298: 390-396.

Black, D.W. 1982. Pathological Laughter. Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases 170: 67-71.

Butovskaya, M. and Kozintsev, A. 1996. A neglected form of quasi-aggression in apes: possible relevance for the origins of humor. Current Anthropology 37(4): 716-717.

Ceccaldi, M., and Milandre, L. 1994. A transient fit of laughter as the inaugural symptom of capsular-thalamic infarction. Neurology. 44(9): 1762.

Chapman, A. J., and H. C. Foot. 1976. Humor and Laughter: Theory, Research and Applications. New York: Wiley.

Citardi, M. J., Yanagisawa, E., Estill, J. 1996. Videoendoscopic analysis of laryngeal function during laughter. Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol. 105(7): 545-549.

Cushner, F. D., and Friedman R. J. 1989. Humor and the physician. South Med J. 82: 51-52.

Darwin, Charles. 1872. The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. University of Chicago Press 1965.

Durant, John, ed., and Miller, Jonathan, ed. 1988. Laughing Matters: A Serious look at Humour. New York: Longman Scientific and Technical.

Fry, William F., Jr. 1963. Sweet Madness: A Study of Humor. Palo Alto, California: Pacific Books.

Fry, William F., Jr. 1977. The Respiratory Components of Mirthful Laughter. Journal of Biological Psychology. Vol. 19.

Fry, William F., Jr. 1992. The Physiologic Effects of Humor, Mirth, and Laughter. Journal of the American Medical Association. 267(13): 1857-1858

Gabin, Rosalind J. 1988. Humor as a Metaphor, Humor as Rhetoric. The Centennial Review. 31(1).

Griffiths, J. 1992. Mind, the mirthful brain: where the belly laugh begins. Omni Aug: 18.

Iannetti, P. et al. 1992. Gelastic epilepsy. A clinical contribution. Clin Pediatr Phila. 31(8): 467-70.

Levy, L. 1965. The Urinary Output of Adrenaline and Noradrenaline During Pleasant and Unpleasant Emotional States. Psychosomatics and Medicine 27(1): 80-85.

Levine, Jacob, ed. 1969. Motivation in Humor. New York: Atherton Press.

Lloyd, E. L. 1938. The respiratory mechanism in laughter. J Gen Psychol. 10: 179-189.

MacHovec, Frank J. 1988. Humor: Theory, History, Applications. Springfield, Illinois: Charles C. Thomas Publisher.

Martin, G. N., and Gray, C. D. 1996. The effects of laughter on men’s and women’s responses to humor. J Soc Psychology 136(2): 221-231.

Matsuoka, S. et al. 1993. Clival chordoma associated with pathological laughter. J Neurosurgery 79(3): 428-33.

Paskind, H. A. 1932. Effects of laughter on muscle tone. Arch Neurol Psychiatry. 28: 623-628.

Provine, R. R. 1992. Contagious laughter: Laughter is a sufficient stimulus for laughs and smiles. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society 30: 1-4.

Provine, R. R. 1993. Laughter punctuates speech: Linguistic, social and gender contexts of laughter. Ethology 95: 291-298.

Provine, R. R. 1996. Laughter. American Scientist 84: 38-45.

Provine, R. R., and Y. L. Yong. 1991. Laughter: A stereotyped human vocalization. Ethology 89: 115-124.

Rankin, A. M., and P. J. Philip. 1963. An epidemic of laughing in the Bukoba District of Tanganyika. Central African Journal of Medicine 9: 167-170.

Raskin, Victor, Semantic Mechanisms of Humor, Boston, D. Reidel Publishing Company, 1985.

Sroufe, L. A., and E. Waters. 1976. The ontogenesis of smiling and laughter: A perspective on the organization of development in infancy. Psychological Review 83: 173-189.

Stone, A., et al. 1987. Evidence that secretory IgA antibody is associated with daily mood. J of Personality & Social Psychology 52(5): 988-993.

Weiskrantz, L., J. Elliott and C. Darlington. 1971. Preliminary observations on tickling oneself. Nature 230: 598-599.