Why do we laugh when we feel embarrassed?

Perhaps it has happened to many that we are involved in a very embarrassing and compromising situation in which we feel uncomfortable but we cannot help but laugh, even when we know it would be a totally inappropriate response. Why does this happen? Is this an automatic strategy directed at others to hide our disgust or is it rather a strategy directed at ourselves in order to comfort ourselves? At the University of Lawrence, 89 videos were recorded of men and women watching films of content: disgusting, funny or neutral. People enjoyed the movies in the company of others or alone. It was observed that while the more disgusting the content of the film being projected the more uncomfortable the participants felt and the more they laughed. At the end of the test, the people who laughed the most felt less uncomfortable than those who controlled the laughter. At this point, research has shown that laughing is a personal strategy to control personal embarrassment but… that's not all… Those who watched the screening in the company of other people laughed more than those who saw the films alone. So, laughing could also be a strategy to hide your feelings. Thus, the researchers investigated the participants' judgment criteria in relation to their projection companions. People who laughed the most were considered less likeable and with inappropriate behavior. What do these considerations indicate to us? We all know perfectly well that laughing in uncomfortable situations is not appropriate, however, we cannot avoid it because it is a strategy that is activated semi-automatically to counteract the individual mood. In this way, embarrassing laughter has an eminently self-regulating function. When we are in front of people the need to laugh to counter these emotions becomes greater since, to the inconvenience of the situation, we add the embarrassment in publicly disclosing our emotions. With that in mind, who knows, the next time we see someone laughing in an awkward situation we may be more forgiving.

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