There are two kinds of humor and laughter. It’s similar to how feedback can be positive or negative.
- Positive laughter opens people up to new possibilities. Good stand-up comedians make jokes that expose stereotypes about race, sex, religion, etc. and in so doing make people think, “isn’t it stupid the way things are?” and “it doesn’t have to be this way.” It’s also the laughter between friends, building positive Hebbian connections in your neurons, “I want to do this again.”
- Negative laughter closes off possibilities. People laugh at someone who fails – and each such laugh is a censor that will prevent themselves from trying new things. Laughter in the face of an idea that someone proposes is a veto without an explanation. (And if a person introduces an idea with a laugh, it’s social insurance against the possible drop in reputation if others find it stupid, at the cost of the idea actually being considered seriously.) The quips that people in different fields make with each other are not so innocuous if they’re saying, “Your values are different from us, and I don’t think they’re as valuable as ours.”
I want to make sure that every time I laugh, it’s positive laughter.