Human Nature

, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 28–43 | Cite as

Laughter’s Influence on the Intimacy of Self-Disclosure

  • Alan W. GrayEmail author
  • Brian Parkinson
  • Robin I. Dunbar


If laughter functions to build relationships between individuals, as current theory suggests, laughter should be linked to interpersonal behaviors that have been shown to be critical to relationship development. 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. We tested this hypothesis experimentally by comparing the characteristics of self-disclosing statements produced by those who had previously watched one of three video clips that differed in the extent to which they elicited laughter and positive affect. The results show that disclosure intimacy is significantly higher after laughter than in the control condition, suggesting that this effect may be due, at least in part, to laughter itself and not simply to a change in positive affect. However, the disclosure intimacy effect was only found for observers’ ratings of participants’ disclosures and was absent in the participants’ own ratings. We suggest that laughter increases people’s willingness to disclose, but that they may not necessarily be aware that it is doing so.


Laughter Self-disclosure Social relationships Endorphins Social bonding 



AG was supported by the Crewe Graduate Scholarship, Lincoln College Oxford. RD’s research is supported by a European Research Council Advanced grant.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alan W. Gray
    • 1
    Email author
  • Brian Parkinson
    • 2
  • Robin I. Dunbar
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of Cognitive NeuroscienceUniversity College LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.Department of Experimental PsychologyUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

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