Cover image for Laughter : a scientific investigation
Laughter : a scientific investigation
Provine, Robert R.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Viking, 2000.
Physical Description:
ix, 258 pages : illustrations, music ; 24 cm
Laughter: an introduction -- The road not taken: philosophical and theoretical approaches to laughter -- Natural history of laughter -- Cracking the laugh code: from sound lab to opera studio -- Chimpanzee laughter, speech evolution, and paleohumorology -- Ticklish relationships -- Contagious laughter and the brain -- Abnormal and inappropriate laughter: clinical perspectives -- Laughing your way to health.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BF575.L3 P76 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



"Whether overheard in a crowded restaurant, as punctuation to the intimate conversation of lovers, or as the noisy guffaws on a TV laugh track, laughter is a fundamental part of the texture of everyday life. It is so fundamental, in fact, that we tend to forget how strange - and how important - it is. Yet while laughter is one of the most common human behaviors, it has, until recently, escaped the scientific scrutiny that has dissected every other aspect of our characters." "For the past ten years, however, Dr. Robert Provine, professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, has studied this complex and often puzzling phenomenon, and through his research has established himself as the world's leading expert on laughing. In Laughter he presents an erudite, wide-ranging, witty, and long-overdue exploration of a frequently surprising subject."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Author Notes

Robert R. Provine is a professor of neurobiology & psychology at the University of Maryland. His work has been featured in media around the world, including "The New York Times," "The Washington Post," "The Wall Street Journal," & "Good Morning America."

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

As soon as Provine, a professor of neurobiology and psychology, introduces his groundbreaking, fun-to-read anthropological study of laughter, a taken-for-granted phenomenon intrinsic to human nature, the full scope of its strangeness and complexity begins to emerge. Laughter, Provine observes, can both forge bonds and be used as a weapon. It can be both therapeutic and annoying and a signal of either subservience or dominance. A cogent writer with a light touch, Provine draws his illustrative examples from his innovative lab and behavioral experiments and keen on-the-street observations. He examines gender differences (females laugh more, but men are the champion laugh-getters) and chronicles the patterns of laughter-related social behavior as well as the properties of laughter aroused by comedians. Laughter is contagious, a dynamic Provine ponders in discussions of laugh tracks and bizarre occurrences of laugh epidemics, and in some unusual cases it's connected to neurological disease. His discourse on tickling is quite provocative, and Provine's fresh and revealing investigation into the differences between chimp and human laughter gets to the root of the evolution of language. Donna Seaman

Choice Review

By taking "laughter" rather than "humor" as a major focus, Provine offers an unusual approach to the scholarly examination of positive affect. The inclusion of nonhumorous laughter helps give a better understanding of the mechanisms of humor and comedy. Although this approach also leads to something of a patchwork quilt of research and observations, the material holds together because the author himself did much of the work. The topics range through the vocal patterns of laughter, laughter in music, laughter in the ill, apparent laughter in animals (especially primates), and even tickling. These varied perspectives suggest several interesting, if not wholly original, hypotheses about the origin of language, social interaction, and other psycho-anthropological phenomenon. Provine also considers the question of laughter as the "best medicine" with proper skepticism and suggestions for future research. In fact, the need for future research seems to be an important message here. This pleasing, informative, and entertaining study belongs with such other recent discussions of research on laughter and humor as The Sense of Humor, ed. by Willibald Ruch (1998). Large psychology collections at all levels, academic and general. P. L. Derks; emeritus, College of William and Mary

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. vii
1. Laughter: An Introductionp. 1
2. The Road Not Taken: Philosophical and Theoretical Approaches to Laughterp. 11
3. Natural History of Laughterp. 23
4. Cracking the Laugh Code: From Sound Lab to Opera Studiop. 55
5. Chimpanzee Laughter, Speech Evolution, and Paleohumorologyp. 75
6. Ticklish Relationshipsp. 99
7. Contagious Laughter and the Brainp. 129
8. Abnormal and Inappropriate Laughter: Clinical Perspectivesp. 153
9. Laughing Your Way to Healthp. 189
Appendix. Ten Tips for Increasing Laughter: Perspectives from the Mall, Workplace, and Clinicp. 209
Notesp. 217
Referencesp. 231
Indexp. 247