A good laugh is contagious. These New Zealand parrots seem to agree.

When researcher Raoul Schwing went up to the valley, a bird tried to take apart his car.

Photo from iStock.

That bird, a kea, was precisely the reason he was there. Keas are large parrots that live in the mountainous areas of New Zealand's South Island. They're wicked smart and armed with a beak like a Swiss army knife, which makes them great at dismantling puzzles (and Schwing's poor car).


They're also highly social and love to play with each other, chasing their bird peers in complex aerial dogfights or hopping across the ground and making a huge variety of whoops and calls. It was those play calls that Schwing was really interested in, a kind of squeaky "bwa-ha-haaaa."

It sounded — well, it sounded a lot like laughter.

Was it laughter Schwing was hearing? That raises a weird question: Can animals even laugh?

Photo from iStock.

Laughter is a difficult concept to study. There are plenty of animals that sound like they’re laughing. Kookaburras, for instance, or hyenas. But a kookaburra’s laugh is territorial, not gleeful, and a hyena’s cackling seems to be the equivalent of a nervous wail, not it enjoying a particularly hilarious joke.

True laughter is as much as message as it is a noise. In humans, it's a way to communicate playfulness or relaxation and a way to infect others with that mood as well. We might laugh at our dates' corny jokes not because they're the next Tig Notaro, but to show we're having a good time. We giggle when we're nervous to let off steam, and we add laugh tracks under sitcoms to invite the audience into the joke.

In this emotional messaging capacity, most animals aren't part of the evolutionary comedy club. But there are some. It turns out that rats enjoy a good tickle. There's tentative evidence dogs might laugh. Great apes, like chimps or orangutans, seem to laugh too. None of them sounds like human laughter — rats giggle at frequencies too high for humans to hear and chimps sound like they're panting — but they seem to carry that oh-so-important emotional messaging.

But do keas deserve entry into this group? Maybe, says Schwing.

Photo from Raoul Schwing.

When Schwing went to the research sites, he brought with him a specially designed, kea-proof speaker system (no taking apart this one). From a distance, he could use a remote control to play a variety of recorded calls at the kea.

Most didn't seem to have any specific effect, but the play call — that bwa-ha-ha noise — did. When he played it, nearby kea often would turn to each other and begin hopping and playfully chasing each other around. Even solitary birds got into the act, playing with objects or doing aerial acrobatics. In short, the play call definitely seemed to fit the emotional contagion category.

So while it may be going a bit far to label this as laughter as we humans know it, it could at least be a cousin of it.

Schwing and his team published their findings in the journal Current Biology.

These kinds of studies can have a lot of interesting results, but maybe most of all, they remind us how complex animals can be.

Some researchers have used it to study how our brains organize emotion or create a mood; there's even a potential antidepressant currently being tested that got its start from studying laughter in rats. Others have used laughter in the great apes to speculate about our own human roots.

For Schwing and his colleagues, studying the kea's play call gave them a window into the animal's social life. They're planning to continue to study the role of play in the kea's lives.

If nothing else, it's something to think about. "If animals can laugh," said Schwing, "we are not so different from them."

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

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Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

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Well Being

Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

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