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Humor Theories and the Physiological Benefits of Laughter

Wilkins, Julia PhD; Eisenbraun, Amy Janel MS

doi: 10.1097/HNP.0b013e3181bf37ad
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There are 3 main theories used to explain the functions of humor: (1) the relief theory, (2) the incongruity theory, and (3) the superiority theory. While these theories focus on the specific role that humor plays for people in situations such as dealing with misfortune, making sense of rule violations, and bonding with others, we propose that underlying each of these theories are the physiological benefits of laughter. We draw on findings from empirical studies on laughter to demonstrate that these physiological benefits occur regardless of the theory that is used to explain the humor function. Findings from these studies have important implications for nurse practitioners working in hospice settings, long-term care facilities, nursing homes, and hospitals.

Department of Special Education, St Cloud State University, Education Bldg B129, 720 Fourth Ave South, St Cloud, Minnesota.

Corresponding Author: Julia Wilkins, PhD, Department of Special Education, St Cloud State University, Education Bldg B129, 720 Fourth Ave South, St Cloud, MN 56301. (wilkin6@clemson.edu).

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.