Lunch | Eric Smadja | Laughter: An Example of Human Complexity
As a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, and anthropologist, I will review and discuss the discourse on laughter. Traditionally, this discourse seems to summon to mind three principal characteristics of laughter: its specifically human nature, its structural relationship to the joy and pleasure procured by what is laughable, making laughter an indicator of “good health,” and its automatic, reflexive aspect. Unfortunately, it seems to obscure two fundamental aspects of laughter: its historicity and the complexity of its determinism. I think that laughter, like all human behavior, referring to human complexity, must be the object of a multi and interdisciplinary approach involving biological, psychological, historical and socio-cultural considerations. And one of the modes of their interaction may be supplied by the idea of communication. Indeed, traditionally perceived as being a facial emotional expression, laughter is fundamentally a mode of non-verbal communication of different types of affective messages among which figure, in the first place, joy and pleasure, but also aggressiveness and anxiety. So this idea of communication could well be the unifying concept by means of which laughter’s biological, psychological, pathological and socio-cultural facets may be envisaged.