March 2003 Notebook Entries

Notebook entry, March 4, 2003

The April issue of Discover Magazine is out and on page 62, the magazine continues with part two of its look at emotions. The second in the series: LAUGHTER by Steven Johnson. Here's the opening: "If Evolution comes down to survival of the fittest, then why do we joke around so much? New brain research suggests that the urge to laugh is the lubricant that makes humans higher social beings." p. 63. Along with the updated information on brain activity, the article focuses on one very interesting point to buttress the idea that laughter is a form of social glue. Following the lead of laughter expert Robert Provine at the University of Maryland, he "began to suspect that laugher was in fact about something else -- not humor or gags or incongruity but our social interactions. He found support for this assumption in a study that had already been conducted, analyzing people's laughing patterns in social and solitary contexts. 'your 're 30 times more likely to laugh when you're with other people than you are when you're alone -- if you don't count simulated social environments like laugh tracks on television. In fact, when you're alone, you're more likely to talk out loud. Much more.' Think how rarely you'll laugh out loud at a funny passage in a book but how quick you'll be to make a friendly laugh when greeting an old acquaintance. Laughing is not an instinctive physical response to humor, the way a flinch responds to pain or a shiver to cold. It's a form of instinctive social bonding that humor is crafted to exploit." p.66. The article also suggests that TICKLING is also a social activity. Overall, it's an excellent entry level introduction into one of our more pleasant emotions. And with the connection to social interaction, it is an added bonus.