I was sitting in a sermon when I was 14 years old. The minister began talking about relationships and in my mind, I was distracted by the thought of something he said that sounded like sex. "We give each other pleasure." Henceforth, the rest of the sermon was about sex in my mind. And I tried not to laugh when he said "and you will find you either fit or you do not, but keep trying." I covered it up with a cough, but once that thought of sex was in my head, I could not stop hearing it in the hymns and the benedictions. I nearly burst from the doors of the church while everyone else rushed the table of doughnuts and coffee, so that I could let my laughter escape.
What is nervous laughter?
It's something we do when we feel alarmed (like at a haunted attraction and something jumps out), uncomfortable (someone we aren't interested in is coming onto us awkwardly), embarrassed (just farted), and even terrified (watching a scary movie).
A nervous laugh usually rises from the throat. Is a woman interested in you or uncomfortable with your attention? Her laugh is quite different. A laugh with a burst of air and a throwing of the upper body or head forward, shows a genuine laugh, but a fluttering of the uvula and fast cadence is not a good sign (tittering). Nervous laughter in that situation means anxiety. Either the person is not feeling safe or perhaps uncomfortable in social situations.
Humans are social creatures and laughter is often a way to show who the leader is. TYou can see this in conversations when groups giggle over what the assumed leader is saying as if he were a teenage idol. They are playing a social role as the responder to the leader. They show they are joining the group, part of it, integrating. It's an interesting custom, but you know how much someone wants to join your leadership by how giggly they are. This is also why we tend to giggle when we meet someone we really like.
Being conscious of the sound of your own laughter is the first step to learning to stop the habit. Just take note how often you laugh, a sure sign of nervousness.
Sometimes, however, nervous laughter is genuinely hilarious to those who witness it -