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Laughter - A Scientific Investigation


Author: Robert Provine

Review by Mark Tyrrell


I must admit to being a bit irritated when I first saw this book - after all, we all know we like a laugh, we don’t need to read research on it! But seeing as I got it for Christmas, I thought I’d better give it a go. And thank goodness I did!

This book looks at laughter without taking any of the fun out of it. Subjects such as why we evolved to laugh come under the microscope, providing fascinating insights into wider human psychology.

He answers questions such as ‘Why do women laugh more at men than vice-versa?' and ‘Why does the speaker laugh more than the audience'. The book explores ‘holy laughing' a laughing epidemic which afflicted a girl’s school and examines how ‘laughing gas' works.

We learn about the emergence of language and the differences between human laughter and ape laughter. He also discusses how laughter ‘seeps away' as we grow into adulthood. The health benefits of laughter are discussed and Provine gives practical tips on how to increase laughter and ‘laugh your way to health'. This is a wonderful scientific validation of what many of us suspected - that laughter is curative as well as fun.

Laughter Chapter Headings

1. Laughter: an introduction
2. The road not taken: philosophical and theoretical approaches to laughter
3. Natural history of laughter
4. Cracking the laugh code: from sound lab to opera studio
5. Chimpanzee laughter, speech evolution, and paleohumorology
6. Ticklish relationships
7. Contagious laughter and the brain
8. Abnormal and inappropriate laughter: clinical perspectives
9. Laughing your way to health

Appendix. Ten tips for increasing laughter: perspectives from the mall, workplace and clinic

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Mark Tyrrell
Creative Director