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A Neuroscientist Walked into a Bar......
on March 23, 2014
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 certain jokes. He analyzes the structure and function of jokes and humor and relates many psychological findings. Merely 200 pages in length plus notes for the more scholarly, the reader is entertained by examples of humor and of recent historical events, as TV's Jeopardy! star Jennings's comments after being defeated by IBM's Watson supercomputer. We learn that rats 'laugh' (not in my laboratory when I had to inject them) and that the sound of dog laughter can calm a kennel. Why some people enjoy horror movies and others don't is explained. Other than some rare anomaly, laughter is indeed a health-inducing process, and this too is described. Political outlook and a sense of humor correlate. (I will leave you do find whether directly or inversely.) Thus, while being amused by the various forms of humor, puns, absurdities, the breaking of taboos, surprises, and clever jokes, the reader will learn about one aspect of consciousness-mind and brain processes that makes life enjoyable. As pointed out, humor is subversive. There are some life lessons here.