Recently, researchers from North Carolina State University used jury deliberations recorded during a capital murder case to study the role of laughter in small group dynamics. They were particularly interested in using the transcripts of jury deliberations (of a capital punishment case) to study laughter because there is very little research on the role of laughter in communication, particularly when divorced from humor.
What the researchers found was that laughter in this situation was used in a multitude of ways; namely to question, control, and regulate relationships, procedures, and information in the group. For example, sometimes laughter was used to signal support for a group member; at other times it was used to signal a lack of support. At times people used laughter as a tool, intentionally and strategically, to control communication and affect group dynamics, or to shift power.
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