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Ha!: The Science of When We Laugh and Why
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Basic Books 2014
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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.

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Format:
Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Edition:
1
Street Date:
03/04/2014
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780465080809
ASIN:
B00ET7IZFW

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Citations

APA Citation (style guide)

Scott Weems. (2014). Ha!: The Science of When We Laugh and Why. 1 Basic Books.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Scott Weems. 2014. Ha!: The Science of When We Laugh and Why. Basic Books.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Scott Weems, Ha!: The Science of When We Laugh and Why. Basic Books, 2014.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Scott Weems. Ha!: The Science of When We Laugh and Why. 1 Basic Books, 2014.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2022. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.

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Date Added:
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Date Updated:
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        Scott Weems is a researcher at University of Maryland, with a PhD in cognitive neuroscience from UCLA. At the University of Maryland he has built a career studying the neuroscience of behavior, first at the Departments of Computer Science and Neurology, then working full time at the Center for Advanced Study of Language (CASL). Weems also has an MFA in creative writing from Lesley University.

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Ha!
fullDescription
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.
reviews
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        December 9, 2013
        Cognitive neuroscientist Weems takes a crack at explaining humor, what it does to the brain, and what purpose(s) it may serve. He describes the effects of dopamine and how the anterior cingulate, the “part of the brain responsible for managing conflict,” overrides the “false expectation” required by many jokes. Weems renders extensive research accessible for a wide audience, citing one study that explored differing attributes of humor across nationality and gender, and another, dubbed “The Bill Cosby Effect,” that claims comedy’s analgesic effect in post-surgical recovery. Weems examines various categories of humor and what they say about human thought and behavior, including “gallows humor,” “lawyer jokes,” and meta-humor. He tackles the “Are women less funny than men?” controversy, notes a study that revealed the tangible negative impact of sexist jokes, outlines personality traits that supposedly contribute to a person’s funniness, ponders why computers can’t master humor, and investigates how comedic timing operates. In addition to a number of amusing jokes, Weems analyzes notable moments in comedy, including Lenny Bruce’s 1961 Carnegie Hall performance and Gilbert Gottfried’s notorious “Aristocrats” routine from the roast of Hugh Hefner. Humor is a difficult, subjective topic of study, and while Weems doesn’t present major conclusions, the information is interesting and the commentary insightful. 6 b&w illus.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        February 1, 2014
        Books analyzing humor are an extensive genre and invariably humorless. Despite a generous selection of jokes, few readers will laugh their way through this latest effort, but they will not be bored as neuroscientist Weems eschews philosophy in favor of hard science. Many animals laugh, but only humans joke. Appreciating a funny story is a complex cerebral activity that, according to high-tech scans, activates brain regions identical to those we use when solving problems. "Although traditional jokes are now rare thanks to humorists like [Lenny] Bruce," writes the author, "humor remains alive and well because it's a process, one that reflects the times and needs of its audience." Both humor and problem-solving require insight, creativity, psychological health and intelligence; in fact, writes Weems, "the smarter we are, the more likely we are to share a good joke." Surprise is essential in humor. We laugh at a story that abruptly reveals an incongruity, but this requires a mature brain with vast experience of the world and one that works obsessively to find patterns in the messy, ambiguous information that bombards it. Young children and those suffering from Alzheimer's disease and other neurological disorders often cannot tell a joke from a lie. That computers lack creativity and can't handle ambiguity turns out to be wrong; they are already churning out mildly funny jokes ("What kind of murderer has moral fiber? A cereal killer"). So far, their range is limited, and they have no ability to appreciate humor, but this may improve in time. Many readers will squirm at the obligatory account of the author's effort at stand-up comedy, and they may roll their eyes at his earnest, if scientifically impeccable, advice for using humor to fight disease, make friends and influence people, but most will enjoy this stimulating overview of what researchers have learned about why we laugh.

        COPYRIGHT(2014) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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shortDescription
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...
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