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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.
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on August 13, 2014
This book is so full of great research and information that I will be using it to teach the AATH (Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor) 3 hour graduate humor studies class called The Humor Academy! Thank you Scott for your creatively written book that will be a wonderful resource for all interested in the science of humor and laughter.
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on September 9, 2015
Overall, I found his arguments to be very insightful but found is discussion of stereotype-based humor lacking and rather rationalized. Whether or not Polish people are perceived as cultural threat in the United States does not explain the popularity of jokes that do target groups perceived as cultural threats.
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on April 28, 2014
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?

These are three basic questions that cognitive neuroscientist Scott Weems explores in his book. As he explains:
"_Ha!_ is about an idea. The idea is that humor and its most common symptom--laughter--are the by-products of possessing brains which rely on conflict. Because they constantly deal with confusion or ambiguity, our minds jump the gun, make mistakes, and generally get muddled in their own complexity. But this isn't so bad. On the contrary, it provides us adaptability and a constant reason to laugh." (p. xiv)

Although the delivery of the book sometimes gets a bit messy, the punch line is a satisfying one: humor helps us to make sense out of our complex world by providing emotionally satisfying ways to turn conflicts into pleasure.

After all, what's the point of life's absurdities if we can't laugh at them!
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on June 21, 2014
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. Weems's book as in all possible ways. Thank you, Scott Weems!
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on June 11, 2014
I used "ha ha" as my header for this review because the book gave me some surprising reasons we laugh and why. I found the book quite interesting and at the same time it was a stiff book to comprehend because there were a few descriptions of "real" research in it. The author made it light with the humor he interjected from time to time. The book is worth its weight in gold!
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on March 11, 2016
Interesting, but scientific. Don't expect to find this book hilarious, because it certainly isn't. It does more to draw connections between humor and brain chemistry than give hints to how people cam develop techniques to make us funnier. Without giving the content away, the books does demonstrate how humor is used to give humans a sign that they must problem-solve a statement or incongruity. Humor does make the brain work. I would definitely recommend this book.
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on April 28, 2014
I bought it for my son, (the Comedian) as a Gift. The author was interviewed on a Radio Show and my son called in, and gave some insight on the topic of Comedy and making people Laugh. My son tells me, this is an Excellent Book and a must read for everyone! It will give you the Scientific answers to "When we Laugh and why".
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on April 5, 2014
This book was very informative, and you did not have to be a scientist to actually learn a good bit about why or brains tell us to laugh or see humor in certain situations. It had a great "flow" to it, I really liked Dr. Weems writing style because he presented a lot of science/data in a way for everyone to understand and stay entertained. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the science of humor. Great job Dr. Weems!
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on July 11, 2014
This author educates us through his "investigation into the science of humor and laughter" using multiple lenses. He holds a PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience for UCLA, an MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University, and is a former research scientist at the University Of Maryland Center for Advanced Study of Language. Weems cites current research, and includes anecdotes and some jokes, while exploring a maze of empirical data about why humor is important in our lives every day.

Weems argues that "humor has only recently become a legitimate topic of study for academic fields like linguistics, psychology, and sociology". His goal is to "act as a translator", combining interesting findings from a variety of fields to "form a new field...Humorology". He cites different assessment tools, including "the Mirth Response Test, a humor tool from the mid-twentieth century that was once popular enough to be featured in Life Magazine". He also identifies other questionnaires including: the "3WD (Witz Dimensionen, or "joke dimension"), Humor Test ", developed by German researcher Willibald Ruch, which, based on responses to jokes and cartoons, groups humor preferences into three types. Weems also discusses a questionnaire developed by Richard Wiseman, Psychologist from north of London, used in Wiseman's project called the Language Lab, to assess "What makes a joke funny?".

Our professor connects studies about brain chemistry with humor, including neuroscientist Dena Mobbs research at Stanford University linking the "dopamine reward circuit" to humor as one side effect of the emotional response to positive feelings. Mobbs examines "the three stages our brains go through when transforming ambiguity and confusion into pleasure". Weems also identifies the element of "surprise" as another key element in our response to humor. He discusses a study by biologist Karl Watson of the California Institute of Technology trying to see if any particular brain region was important for surprise.

"Humor is essentially a matter of combinatorial creativity" says Margaret Boden, cognitive scientist, professor of Informatics at the University of Susex. Professor Weems thinks that "All you need is the ability to connect ideas in novel ways and you have yourself a joke". He concludes that "humor is correlated with IQ by the age of ten", and that "learning to be funny may even make us smarter". He says that "humorists question everything they see, never taking anything for granted". He suggests that the "reason watching comedy makes us smarter and more creative" may be because by exercising the mind, "humor provides a much-needed warm-up" as mental exercise and keeps "our brains active".

I agree with the connections Weems makes between a "humorous personality" and one who sees "ambiguity, confusion, and strife inherent in life and turns them into pleasure". HA as a book about the science and research of when and why we laugh raises questions for further study. Weems makes concise and clear links between existing studies and why humor is simultaneously "entertaining and informative". Even without the research to back up Weem's ideas, I would advocate for a daily dose of laughter to exercise my mind in a pleasurable way, to reduce stress, and to promote healthy brain chemistry.
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