Writer Elizabeth Giddens answers a listener's question about toddlers by pondering repetition, and how all sorts of activities seem to have a Goldilocks amount that's just right...and a "too much" threshold where things can turn transcendent, or get very troubling.
On the etymology of 'sardonic laughter', from Laughter: A Scientific Investigation by Robert Provine:
The term “sardonic laughter,” referring to the bitter, mocking laughter of derision, has a rich if dark etymology. The ancients who coined the term were referring to the humorless laughter and smiling produced by a ...
Some hard-working psychologists at the University of California, Santa Barbara found that although tickling generally elicits laughter, it’s not always funny or pleasant. Here’s an excerpt from a New York Times article about that study:
The basis for the newly published study is what is known as the ...
Aristotle puzzled over the great mystery of why it’s impossible to tickle oneself. Turns out it’s quite simple, really. Here’s a brief explanation by British neuroscientist Sarah Blakemore that appeared in Scientific American:
“The answer lies at the back of the brain in an area called the cerebellum, ...
A neuroscientist at Stanford recently used an fMRI machine to peer into people’s brains while they watch cartoons, and found that men and women were responding differently.
Mrs. Murphy’s Manners for Women, a British how-to from 1897, has very particular ideas about the role of women’s laughter.
Much has been written about the alleged health benefits of laughter, but a new report takes it up a notch by claiming that the mere anticipation of laughter dramatically reduces stress hormones—which tempts me to lie and say that this article is really funny:
Aristotle thought babies became human beings only once they laughed for the first time. He also decided that this should happen around their 40th day. Conventional wisdom now puts it at about the 90th day—but we’re probably not as funny as the ancient Greeks.
“Laughter,” wrote Thomas Hobbes, “is nothing else but sudden glory arising from some sudden conception of some eminency in ourselves, by comparison with the infirmity of others, or with our own formerly.”
British behavioral psychologist Richard Wiseman set out to track humor on an international scale and discover the funniest joke in the world. After analyzing 1.5 million Internet ratings of 40,000 jokes, Wiseman’s Laugh Lab discovered that Germans were easiest to please, ranking first among nations in finding all sorts of jokes hilarious. Americans squeaked in at number eight with their love of put-downs, right behind the Belgians, with their penchant for the surreal.
Though it’s practically a truism by now that anthropologists’ reports often say more about the writers’ assumptions than about the cultures in question, the valiant attempt by Mahadev L. Apte to compile an anthropology of laughter is laudable, if often hard to believe.