Ha!: The Science of When We Laugh and Why

Ha!: The Science of When We Laugh and Why

by Scott Weems

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Overview

An entertaining tour of the science of humor and laughter

Humor, like pornography, is famously difficult to define. We know it when we see it, but is there a way to figure out what we really find funny—and why?

In this fascinating investigation into the science of humor and laughter, cognitive neuroscientist Scott Weems uncovers what's happening in our heads when we giggle, guffaw, or double over with laughter. While we typically think of humor in terms of jokes or comic timing, in Ha! Weems proposes a provocative new model. Humor arises from inner conflict in the brain, he argues, and is part of a larger desire to comprehend a complex world. Showing that the delight that comes with "getting" a punchline is closely related to the joy that accompanies the insight to solve a difficult problem, Weems explores why surprise is such an important element in humor, why computers are terrible at recognizing what's funny, and why it takes so long for a tragedy to become acceptable comedic fodder. From the role of insult jokes to the benefit of laughing for our immune system, Ha! reveals why humor is so idiosyncratic, and why how-to books alone will never help us become funnier people.

Packed with the latest research, illuminating anecdotes, and even a few jokes, Ha! lifts the curtain on this most human of qualities. From the origins of humor in our brains to its life on the standup comedy circuit, this book offers a delightful tour of why humor is so important to our daily lives.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780465031702
Publisher: Basic Books
Publication date: 03/04/2014
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 540,063
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Scott Weems received a PhD in cognitive neuroscience from UCLA, and an MFA in creative writing from Lesley University. Previously a research scientist at the University of Maryland Center for Advanced Study of Language, he lives in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Table of Contents

Introduction ix

Part I "What Is?" The Elusive Concept of Mirth

Chapter 1 Cocaine, Chocolate, and Mr. Bean 3

Chapter 2 The Kick of the Discovery 27

Chapter 3 Stopover at the Empire State Building 51

Part II "What For?" Humor and Who We Are

Chapter 4 Specialization Is for Insects 81

Chapter 5 Our Computer Overlords 105

Part III "So What?" Becoming a More Jovial Person

Chapter 6 The Bill Cosby Effect 133

Chapter 7 Humor Dances 151

Chapter 8 Oh, the Places You'll Go 175

Conclusion 193

Acknowledgments 199

Notes 201

Index 223

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