From: Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News
Published September 20, 2012 08:14 AM

Apes Enjoy Slapstick Humor

Non-human primates may enjoy watching someone else trip on a banana peel, according to new research on laughter, which found that apes might appreciate slapstick humor.


The research also helps to explain the origins of laughter and the social aspects of the behavior.

Robin Dunbar, who co-authored one such study with Guillaume Dezecache, described what non-human primates might be amused by.

"The use of language-based jokes is clearly unique to humans," Dunbar, a professor of evolutionary psychology at the University of Oxford, told Discovery News. "There is some suggestion that apes 'play practical jokes' or laugh at another's misfortune, such as the banana skin situation, but these are only casual observations."

"Human laughter derives from the play invitation vocalizations of Old World monkeys and apes, but this is normally confined to juveniles and adolescents; adults don't play," he continued.

"In apes, this is identifiably rather closer to human laughter," Dunbar explained, "and bonobos in particular use laughter a lot in play contexts, even among adults. What seems to have happened is that humans have taken these monkey/ape play vocalizations and tweaked them and increased the frequency of their use."

Human laughter still has an animalistic quality, in the sense that it involves a series of rapid exhalation-inhalation cycles comparable to other primate sounds; it's louder than human speech; and, like sneezing, laughter is contagious.

Article continues at Discovery News

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