Ha!: The Science of When We Laugh and Why

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.

Nanci Arvizu, Writing and Reviews Editor

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3 Comments

  1. A Neuroscientist Walked into a Bar…… While author Scott Weems is a cognitive neuroscientist, the book is more psychology and sociology than biochemistry. Indeed, aside from some mention of brain anatomy and the neurotransmitter dopamine, no other familiarity of biology is necessary to enjoy this wide-angle treatise. The book allows us to examine what we know or thought we knew about humor. It reminds us how our sense of humor changes as we age, how different ethnic groups regard jokes, how men differ from women in appreciating…

  2. The serious need for humor Humor is a funny thing. What makes something funny…or not? What is the purpose of humor anyway? And, how can it improve our health and overall life attitude? 

  3. The importance of the HA! This book on laughter and humor is so much easier to read than Henri Bergson’s essays on Laughter. The “Science of When We Laugh and Why is such an important topic and should also be vastly promoted to boomers and seniors since incorporating a regime of laughter into ones daily life is an intricate ingredient to maintaining health and longevity. As a long time believer in this premise, I have created a youtube series entitled Adventures in Staying Young and I will definitely promote Dr…

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