Laughter is a physical reaction in humans consisting usually of rhythmical, often audible contractions of the diaphragm and other parts of the respiratory system resulting most commonly in forms of 'hee-hee' or 'ha-ha'. It is a response to certain external or internal stimuli.
Laughter can arise from such activities as being tickled, or from humorous stories or thoughts. Most commonly, it is considered an auditory expression of a number of positive emotional states, such as joy, mirth, happiness, relief, etc. On some occasions, however, it may be caused by contrary emotional states such as embarrassment, surprise, or confusion such as nervous laughter or courtesy laugh.
Age, gender, education, language, and culture are all indicators as to whether a person will experience laughter in a given situation. Some other species of primate (chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans) show laughter-like vocalizations in response to physical contact such as wrestling, play chasing or tickling.
Laughter is a part of human behavior regulated by the brain, helping humans clarify their intentions in social interaction and providing an emotional context to conversations. Laughter is used as a signal for being part of a group. It signals acceptance and positive interactions with others. Laughter is sometimes seen as contagious, and the laughter of one person can itself provoke laughter from others as a positive feedback.
The study of humor and laughter, and its psychological and physiological effects on the human body, is called gelotology.