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Humour/Laughter And Their Effects On Pain Threshold

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Within this discussion it will be shown the affect of humour on pain tolerance. Humour/laughter is shown to release different hormones which can affect an individual’s pain threshold and the believe to reduce stress, showing how there is a biological basis to this idea. The first study shows how the treatment of breast cancer patients can be affected by humour due to the pain they feel during the procedure they endure (Lee & Uchiyama, 2015). Another study to support this research is on male adolescence and their pain thresholds using a cold pressor test and humour videos (Sindhuja, Meerasa, & Subhashini, 2015). The final study compares different effects on pain threshold using humour, positive effect and a neutral video on individual participants (Dunbar, et al., 2012).

Lee & Uchiyama (2015) observed 29 women who all were having mammography as a treatment for breast cancer. Within the experiment they used individual groups, who would either go through the procedure with a humour video playing or without and then measured using the visual analogue scale. The video consisted of smaller humorous clips played together to make the video that the participants then watched. Once the results were plotted and tested for significance the results showed that people experienced less pain when watching the humour video when compared to the control group who did not. This shows that humour can increase an individual’s pain thresholds in order to make procedures less painful.

Supporting Lee & Uchiyama (2015), Sindhuja, Meerasa, & Subhashini (2015) studied 25 male adolescents’ using a cold pressor test. The participants pain threshold and pain appraisal were measured by how long an individual would be able to endure the cold pressor test (in seconds). Each participant had their pain threshold and appraisal measured before, during and after watching a humorous video. The results showed that the pain appraisal on average was 52.88 before the humorous video, 66.24 while watching the video and 60.28 after. This shows that participants on average did not begin to feel the pain for longer while watching the video and after watching it than without. Another way that these results were measured is how long the individual was able to endure the cold pressor which was shown to be the participants pain tolerance. On average each individual was able to endure the pain for 128.16 seconds before watching the humours video, 150.52 during the video and 138.4 after the video had been watched. They concluded overall that humour had the ability to change an individual’s pain tolerance through a neurobiological process. A weakness in this study is that we are able to see that there is a lasting effect of the humorous video as the average pain threshold and pain appraisal is higher after watching the humorous video when compared to before. Yet, there is no explanation for this meaning no conclusion as to why this is can be drawn.

Dunbar, et al., (2012) conducted 5 different experiments into social laughter which was then correlated with pain threshold. One of these conducted experiments researched how different video types may affect an individual’s pain threshold, including humour. The experiment used individual groups to be able to conduct this experiment using 14 male and 36 female participants. These were then allocated into 3 random groups to watch one of three videos. One group was seen to be a control group watching a normal (neutral stimulated) video, the other two would either watch a positive stimulated video and the other a humour video. They would watch these videos either singularly or in a group of four which was same sexed grouped; these videos would last for 15 minutes each. In order to measure the pain threshold of each individual they used a mercurial sphygmomanometer, using the maximum inflation of 260-280mmHG, when the participant found the pain of this too much all they had to do was simply say which would then be the measurement of their pain threshold. Each participants pain threshold was measured twice, once before the video and once after the video. The results showed that the only group whose pain threshold had increased significantly was the group who had watched the humour video, while the other groups pain threshold decreased but was calculated to be insignificant.

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All the research shown supports each other to show the relationship between humour and pain tolerance using correlational statistics. However, this means that it can only show a relationship between the two variables but not a causation for this. In order to improve the research a biological basis could have been viewed, such as how the hormones laughter/humour releases effects pain tolerance, and this would then provide a biological explanation that could show causation for this.

Furthermore, for all of the research shown they use the mean to be able to compare and contrasts the results, by doing this it gives the reader an overview of the results. Yet, the mean could have been affected by extreme values skewing the results, so they may not be fully representative unlike if the data had been presented using the median and mode also.

Through the methods of the research conducted we are able to see that the methods are reliable as they are standardised. They are also in a laboratory this means that all external factors are under control so that we can see the exact effect on each of the variables. However, in two of the three studies shown this means that we are unable to see the full effects of humour on pain tolerance as they are not in a real-life setting. Lee & Uchiyama, (2015) shows that although it may be in a laboratory setting it is a real procedure, this means that it is already in a real-life setting, so we can see how it can be applicated into the real world.

Lee & Uchiyama, (2015) research fails to look at other different factors that may affect pain tolerance, such as if a simple distraction task would be as effective as a humorous video, similarly Sindhuja, Meerasa, & Subhashini, (2015) does the same thing. This means that their research has the ability to conclude that a humorous video can affect pain tolerance, but it does not show how different videos may affect pain tolerance and if a simple distraction task would work in the same way. Unlike Dunbar, et al., (2012) research which shows how a positive affect video, or a neutrally stimulated video affects pain tolerance negatively. But due to these results being insignificant we are able to conclude that humour works in a different way than other tasks as the results may have been by chance.

In conclusion these three studies show how humour has a positive correlation with pain tolerance for a short period of time. It is also shown how it can be applied into the real world, such as in hospital procedures in Sindhuja, Meerasa, & Subhashini, (2015) experiment. The research can show that other motives, such as watching another video type in Dunbar et al., (2012) research, may not have the same effect as a humorous video does however, this may be by chance so further research is needed. Therefore, it is shown that humour has a positive effect to enhance an individual’s pain tolerance through correlational research and there is a possibility that simple distraction tasks do not work in the same way. However, it cannot be said why this may be or for how long the effect may last on each person due to the lack or research shown.


  1. Dunbar, R. I., Baron, R., Frangou, A., Pearce, E., Van Leeuwen, E., Stow, J., . . . Vugt, M. V. (2012). Social laughter is correlated with an elevated pain threshold. The royal society.
  2. Lee, Y., & Uchiyama, M. (2015). The effects of humour stimuli on alleviating pain during mammography: a prliminary study. Health, 659-664.
  3. Sindhuja, J., Meerasa, S. S., & Subhashini, A. S. (2015). The influence of laughter and humour on pain perception among male adolescents. IOSR Journal of Dental and Medical Sciences, 17-20.

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