According to an NBC News report, a 2006 study from The University College of London measured a group of people's responses to various sounds with an MRI scanner. The sounds ranged in emotion; some were positive and some were negative. All of the sounds stimulated some sort of response in the cortical part of the brain, and therefore, triggered the facial muscles to react.
The positive sounds yielded more responses, indicating that a happy sound like laughter can, in fact, "catch on."
The brain is also conditioned to associate positive sounds with groups of people. In response to the study, neuroscientist Sophie Scott said: "We usually encounter positive emotions, such as laughter or cheering, in group situations, whether watching a comedy program with family or a football game with friends This response in the brain, automatically priming us to smile or laugh, provides a way or mirroring the behavior of others, something which helps us interact socially. It could play an important role in building strong bonds between individuals in a group."
People associate laughter with groups.
This could explain why you laugh less when you watch a movie alone on your couch; you've associated laughter and comedy with a group, and there is no group sitting with you.
Does this mean that people who hated "The Interview" at home would love it in theaters? Not necessarily, but it might mean that they may have cracked smiles at James Franco and Seth Rogen's absurdity, and therefore, they may have hated the movie a little less.
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