The science of laughing: what one’s laugh says about you, our Presidents, & Mitt Romney

By Paul Knoepfler

UPDATED

What kind of laugher are you?

Chuckler? Giggler? Belly laugher? Quiet? Loud? Cry when you laugh? Can’t breathe when you laugh hard?

Why do we laugh in the first place?

There is actually a field of study of laughter called Gelotology, but despite this scientists do not really understand much about laughter.

Why do people laugh so differently from each other?

Think of Bill Clinton and Mitt Romney….there couldn’t be two more different laughers on Earth. What does that mean? Our recent Presidents all have different ways of laughing that are telling about their personalities. Which laugh is most like yours?

Laughing is one of those fairly ubiquitous human actions that nonetheless are relatively poorly understood by scientists. To my knowledge humans are the only creatures on Earth that truly laugh, although others make noises like laughter such as hyenas.

They say “laughter is the best medicine”, which I actually believe from my own experience with cancer and surgery, but laughter can also reflect pain and suffering. Interestingly, laughter, while so integral to the “normal”  human condition can also manifest due to mental illness.

So why do we laugh? Surprisingly, the Gelotologists out there as well as the rest of us aren’t really sure.

The reasons seem varied and complex.

Paradoxically laughter can indicate emotions and feelings as diverse as joy, pain, fear, confidence, relief, deceit, hate, and love.

When you see a person laugh, which of the above is going on in their heads and hearts?

It’s not always so clear, is it? Think about presidential candidate Mitt Romney….why does he laugh? How does it make you feel to watch it? Watch the YouTube video above and see how it makes you feel.

Putting the shoe on the other foot, when you  laugh, what is the way you laugh telling other people (even if unconsciously) about you? People have tried to figure this out for centuries. I found one website making some statements about this, but I’m not so sure it is accurate.

Despite the mysterious nature of laughter, often times when we hear other people laugh it is sending us a message.

Politicians often laugh during interviews, revealing glimpses to their inner selves. It’s fascinating to think about the laughs of our recent Presidents.

Jimmy Carter did not laugh much when he was President and when he did it seemed awkward most of the time, which to me reflected how he took himself too seriously. Since leaving office, however, you see him laughing more often and it is the laugh of a kind man who has been through a lot.

Ronald Reagan had a warm smile and a chuckling laugh that even I as a liberal-minded teenager could not help but like. To me Reagan’s smile reflected a man truly comfortable with himself and one who loved humor. Was any of that part of his actor background and did his laugh fool me? I don’t know. It seemed genuine to me.

George Bush (senior) had a quirky, smirky kind of laugh that I believe was telling about his personality. He’s the kind of guy who likes to kid around, but perhaps a bit of a smart alecky side…perhaps a bit uncomfortable very “regular” people.Clinton laughing

Bill Clinton has a very over the top, boisterous laugh that I believe was genuine and reflected his outsized personality. Here’s a guy who loves a good time and truly loves people. Very confident.

George W. Bush Jr. had an unusual laugh. A tight laugh with the shoulders. The laugh of a man who is stressed and has some pain he carries with him.

Obama laughing

Barack Obama has an interesting laugh. It is a joyous, but definitely partially restrained laugh of a man who appreciates humor, even edgy humor. But it is also a laugh of a man who is confident, perhaps slightly too confident of his intellect. Still, it is a laugh that people can relate to.

How does Mitt Romney compare to the Presidents when it comes to laughing? See video above near top of post for more Romney laughter than you can probably stomach (at least I couldn’t watch the whole thing).

Romney laughingMitt Romney’s laugh is very strange and completely unlike any of our actual Presidents. Most people have a negative reaction to Romney’s laugh. There’s even an article “Mitt Romney’s Terrible Laugh”, which makes the argument that the essence of Romney as a man is distilled down into that laugh reflecting “insincerity…ambition….awkwardness, and above all fear”. I think author Paul Waldman has Romney’s laugh pegged.

Romney’s laugh, to me, is the only real thing about him that I have ever actually seen. Mitt Romney is his laugh. To me the first thought that comes to mind from Romney’s laugh is that he is afraid of being exposed. For what? I don’t know.

I can’t imagine 4 years of listening to that laugh if he becomes President.

Laughter is very telling about people and it tells me, fairly or not, I just do not like Mitt Romney as a person. I don’t trust him because he doesn’t trust himself and he doesn’t like himself deep inside.

4 Comments


  1. I totally disagree with this article. It is obvious that the writers “analysis” of the laughs of the presidents is biased. The writer seems to form his opinions of the presidents’ laughs according to how he feels about their views and beliefs, not the other way around. The writer says, “Most people have a negative reaction to Romney’s laugh.” Where did he get that statistic? Funny thing is that most people I know can’t stomach Obama’s laugh (or even his voice). The writer didn’t even have to tell us that he is a Liberal. It is painfully obvious.


  2. I should have mentioned that I like Romney’s laugh. I find it very genuine. It is my experience that Liberals don’t laugh as much as Conservatives. Are Liberals envious/jealous of Conservatives who appear happier? I believe Conservatives have a better understanding of who they are and what they believe in. Liberals appear angry more often than not. Conservatives laugh. Liberals get pissed off. I prefer someone who laughs over someone who gets pissed off. Another observation about Obama: He only smiles or laughs when he is in the spot light. At least Romney could smile or laugh when the pressure was on him. Maybe my opinion is as biased as the writers, but, nonetheless, the writers statements are clearly opinionated, not scientific.


  3. I have to say it! Unhappy people HATE happy people. Happy people HATE a downer! Unhappy people love misery!

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