Why can’t we be all like adolescent girls, and laugh more? The topic of the discussion thread caught my attention. Evidently girls between the ages of 11 and 18 all over the world laugh more than any other group. In the past, I have often been in classrooms where teenage girls were unable to suppress their laughter. Most of the time there was nothing particularly amusing to start the laughter. However, the very sound of an initial giggle seemed to generate the impulse for laughter to spread. It frequently turned into a high pitched and disruptive twitter, bringing the class to a halt. I suspected that was the reason the girls were giggling so much.
It turns out that I was not far from right. Girls don’t giggling all the time because they are having fun, but because they are building their first line of defense. Giggling is an attempt to gain allies in a conflict. They are waging war from a position of weakness as evidenced by their weapon of choice, laughter, but waging it nonetheless.
The gigglers sense that they have little authority over others. They may be a female in a male dominated society, a youth in culture where older people are acknowledged leaders, or less educated and experienced in a world espousing intellectual ability and technological savvy. Delicate chortling is a way of seducing those in power into helping and not attacking them.
The people for whom the giggling is performed are often well aware that it is done to appease them rather than for any humorous words they have said. Still they are flattered. John Morreal, a professor of religion at William and Mary College in Williamsburg, Virginia, noted that the “degree to which a woman laughed while talking to a man was indicative of her interest in dating him. How much the woman laughed also predicted the man’s desire to date her.”
The gigglers live within a hierarchical framework, a kind of caste system based on power in society. They have discovered that the placating nature of a chuckle usually works better than attempting a rational discussion, which places both parties in a position of equality. Laughter is their choice tool for manipulating others. They typically laugh to appease someone they view as having a superior position. However, if you observe a giggler talking to someone that they feel they are above (such as a younger sibling or child) and the laughter frequently disappears, and is sometimes replace by a demanding voice.
While researching the psychology of laughter, I found an interesting Radio Lab called “How Does Laughing Affect Us?” Vanderbilt University associate professor of psychology JoAnne Bachorowski concluded that men laugh more around their bosses and women laugh louder around men they don’t know because “the giggling girls have power.” They use excessive laughter to shield themselves, by gaining the attention and protection of those who are stronger in society. If you want to know more you can listen to the program – http://www.radiolab.org/story/91593-how-does-laughing-affect-us/