LONDON, March 16 (UPI) -- Forging new relationships, both romantic and platonic, requires people to let down their guard and break out of their shell -- even if only for a brief moment. A new study by researchers in England suggests laughter is an ideal way to break down personal defenses, enabling the spark that new relations require.
According to researchers at the University College London and the University of Oxford, the creation of new relationships requires individuals to open up to each other and share personal information. In an experiment, scientists found laughter encouraged the sharing of personal info -- even if those sharing were unaware of their new-found openness.
When some 112 university students were randomly split into groups and shown videos, individuals that saw funnier videos were more likely to share information about themselves with a stranger. Researchers measured the amount of laughter that each video induced and then had groups interact with each other. When participants were asked to exchange introductory notes with another group member, researchers found those in groups that laughed more contained are larger amount of personal information.
The researchers found that participants weren't actually aware that they'd let down their guard, so to speak. Only the note recipients and study organizers were aware of the more personal nature of the notes.
Scientists say the more open nature of the exchanges weren't simply a result of participants having a more positive experience. Physiological -- or hormonal -- changes are likely at play.
"This seems to be in line with the notion that laughter is linked specifically to fostering behaviors that encourage relationship development, since observer ratings of disclosure may be more important for relationship development than how much one feels one is disclosing," study leader Alan Gray, a researcher at the University College London Gray, said in a press release.
"These results suggest that laughter should be a serious topic for those interested in the development of social relationships," Gray added.
The new study was published this week in the journal Human Nature.