“I can’t break up with her. I’ll start laughing,” he says. Two years into a lackluster relationship, my friend Ben is ready to go it alone. His admission prompts a perplexed chuckle from our small group. “Wait. So, who’s going to break up with her?” I wonder.
“I don’t know, but it can’t be me. I guarantee I will burst into laughter.”
“I love thinking about embarrassing [or] awkward laughter,” Adrienne Wood, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, tells me. It’s what she calls “affiliation laughter” — the kind that’s more about the sound than the…
In 1964, at age 49, Norman Cousins — then best-known as the editor of the Saturday Review, a now defunct weekly magazine — collapsed in the middle of his living room floor. He was rushed to the hospital and diagnosed with sudden-onset degenerative collagen disease, a connective tissue condition that rendered him nearly quadriplegic and caused him severe back pain. His doctor gave him a one-in-500 chance of recovery.
A lifelong optimist, however, Cousins figured he could beat the odds.
People laugh about five times in every 10 minutes of conversation. They are also 30 times more likely to laugh when they are with other people compared to when they are alone. It’s common to think of laughter as a loud reaction to a funny joke, but most of the time it’s simply a recurring feature of normal social interaction.
Sophie Scott is a scientist and professor at University College London who leads much of the current research about laughter. …