ERIC Number: ED188278
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1980-May
Reference Count: 0
Laughter as Communication: Some Intercultural Implications.
Understanding how laughter communicates helps to explain how individuals respond to laughter in intercultural situations. There are three manifestations of laughter: reflex responses to particular physical stimuli; automatic reactions to informative stimuli that can be intentionally controlled; and symbols encoded with semantic meanings significant to the sender and the receiver. Symbolic laughter is voluntary, so there is wide variation in the sender's awareness of intent. In intercultural situations, reflex laughter is the only manifestation whose meaning is constant and understood across cultures. Automatic laughter is highly ambiguous, because it relates to the repressions of the individual and socially learned behaviors. Within groups that are heterogeneous, automatic laughter will not necessarily function to unite the group and establish or reinforce norms. On the contrary, automatic laughter may be disruptive, creating misunderstandings and tension. Only when people share the same attitudes or overcome their differences will they laugh together spontaneously, sharing the benefits of the experience. Symbolic laughter between individuals from different backgrounds may not be understood at all. Since it is intentional communication, symbolic laughter depends on context for correct interpretation. Laughter, therefore, is not a universal language, though it is used similarly within all cultures. Rather than providing a pleasant means of communicating, laughter is risky, open to misinterpretation, and a reminder of cultural differences. (RL)
Publication Type: Information Analyses; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Intercultural Communication; Laughter
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the International Communication Association (Acapulco, Mexico, May 18-23, 1980).