In principle, humour studies would be significantly enhanced by a comprehensive understanding of laughter and amusement. Members of various scientific disciplines, however, often approach laughter from distinct, rather narrow, experimental or observational paradigms, and rarely make direct challenges to broader theories that are generaly accepted as incomplete, but also difficult to falsify. Evaluating, comparing, and ranking such theories is possible, however, using the concept of explanatory scope. To better establish the range of questions a comprehensive theory of laughter must resolve, I reviewed 525 peer-reviewed journal articles and recorded a total of 852 topics addressed by the authors. These were categorized into 29 themes. The list provided should allow scholars to more effectively assess the strengths and weaknesses of existing laughter theories and help guide future endeavours to more fully understand this important behavior.
Apte, M. (1985). Humour and Laughter: An Anthropological Approach. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Arroyo, S., Lesser, R. P., Gordon, B., Uematsu, S., Hart, J., Schwerdt, P., Andreasson, K., & Fisher, R. S. (1993). ‘Mirth, laughter and gelastic seizures’. Brain 116, pp. 757-780.
Bergler, E. (1956). Laughter and the Sense of Humour. New York: Intercontinental Medical Book Co.
Bryant, G. A., & Aktipis, C. A. (2014). ‘The animal nature of spontaneous human laughter’. Evolution and Human Behaviour 35, pp. 327-335.
Citardi, M. J., Yanagisawa, E., & Estill, J. (1996). ‘Videoendoscopic analysis of laryngeal function during laughter’. Annals of Otology, Rhinology and Laryngology 105, pp. 545-549.
Chiszar, D. (1981). ‘Learning theory, ethological theory, and developmental plasticity’, in E. S. Gollin (ed.), Developmental Plasticity: Behavioral and Biological Aspects of Variations in Development. New York: Academic Press, pp. 71-100.
Davies, C. (2012). Book Reviews. Humour: International Journal of Humour Research 25(1), pp. 108-113.
Davila-Ross, M., Owren, M., & Zimmermann, E. (2009). ‘Reconstructing the evolution of laughter in great apes and humans’. Current Biology 19(13), pp. 1106–1111.
Deutsch, D. (1997). The Fabric of Reality. The Science of Parallel Universes. New York: Allen Lane.
Dezecachea, G., & Dunbar, R.I.M. (2012). ‘Sharing the joke: The size of natural laughter groups’. Evolution and Human Behaviour 33, pp.775-779.
Dunn, J. (1994). ‘Experience and understanding of emotions, relationships, and membership in a particular culture”, in P. Eckman and R. J. Davidson (eds.), The Nature of Emotion: Fundamental Question. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 352-355.
Gervais, M., & Wilson, D. S. (2005). “The evolution and functions of laughter and humour: A synthetic approach”. Quarterly Review of Biology 80, pp. 395-430.
Halliwell, S. (2008). Greek Laughter: A Study Of Cultural Psychology From Homer To Early Christianity. Cambridge University Press.
Hertzler, J. O. (1970). Laughter: A Socio-Scientific Analysis. New York: Expedition Press.
Holmes, C. M., & Goldman, M. J. (2012). ‘Seizures presenting as incessant laughter: A case of gelastic epilepsy’. The Journal of Emergency Medicine 43(6), pp. e447-e449.
Jefferson, G. (2010). ‘Sometimes a frog in your throat is just a frog in your throat: Gutturals as (sometimes) laughter-implicative’. Journal of Pragmatics 42(6), pp. 1476-1484.
Johnson, S. G., Johnston, A., Toig, A., & Keil, F. (2014). ‘Explanatory scope informs causal strength inferences’. Cognitive Science 38, pp. 2453-2458.
Kozintsev, A. (2010). The Mirror Of Laughter. Translated by Richard P. Martin. New Brunswick and London: Transaction Publishers.
Mahony, D. L., Burroughs, W. J., & Lippman, L. G. (2002). ‘Perceived attributes of health-promoting laughter: A cross-generational comparison’. The Journal of Psychology 136(2), pp. 171-181.
Martin, P. (1984). ‘The (four) whys and wherefores of play in cats: A review of functional, evolutionary, developmental and causal issues’, in P. K. Smith (ed.), Play in Animals and Humans. New York: Basil Blackwell, pp. 71-94.
Maryanski, A. M., Molnár, P., Segerstråle, U., & Velichkovsky, B. M. (2013). ‘The social and biological foundations of human communication’, in P. Weingart, S. D. Mitchell, P. J. Richerson, & S. Maasen (eds.), Human by nature: Between biology and the social sciences. Psychology Press, (pp. 181-200).
Mehu, M., & Dunbar, R. I. M. (2008). ‘Naturalistic observations of smiling and laughter in human group interactions’. Behavior 145, pp. 1747-1780.
Morreall, J. (2015). ‘Is humorous amusement an emotion?’ Israeli Journal of Humour Research 4(2), pp. 6-11.
Nelson, J. K. (2012). What Made Freud Laugh: An Attachment Perspective on Laughter. New York: Routledge.
Owings, D. H., & Morton, E. S. (1998). Animal Vocal Communication: A New Approach. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. [referring to Darwin, C. (1872). The Expression Of the Emotions in Man and Animals. London: Murray.]
Perks, L.G. (2012). ‘The ancient roots of humour theory’. Humour: International Journal of Humour Research 25(2), pp. 119-132.
Provine, R. R. (1992). ‘Contagious laughter: Laughter is a sufficient stimulus for laughs and smiles’. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society 30(1), pp. 1-4.
Provine, R. R. (1996). ‘Laughter’. American Scientist 84, pp. 38-44.
Provine, R. R. (2000). Laughter: A scientific investigation. New York, NY: Penguin Press.
Roberts, R. C. (1988). ‘Is amusement an emotion?’ American Philosophical Quarterly 25(3), pp. 269-274.
Ruch, W. F., Hofmann, J., & Platt, T. (2013). ‘Investigating facial features of four types of laughter in historic illustrations’. The European Journal of Humour Research 1(1), pp. 99-118.
Ruch, W. F., Hofmann, J., & Platt, T. (2015). ‘Individual differences in gelotophobia and responses to laughter-eliciting emotions’. Personality and Individual Differences 72, pp. 117-121.
Szameitat, D. P., Darwin, C. J., Szameitat, A. J., Wildgruber, D., & Alter, K. (2011). ‘Formant characteristics of human laughter’. Journal of Voice 25(1), pp. 32-37.