Shara Rendell-Smock has written more than
twenty computer software manuals, numerous newspaper
articles, including a monthly health column for The
She's the author of two books of non-fiction: Getting
Hooked: Fiction's Opening Sentences 1950's- 1990's
Living With Big Cats: The Story of Jungle Larry,
Safari Jane, and David Tetzlaff
For ordering information, click here.
To read more about these books, participate in an
ongoing joke contest, surf on over to
The author currently lives on Florida's Space Coast.
Shara has recently signed with a
New York Literary agency.
Humour and Health
"Think You're Funny?"
- Part 1 of 5
has nothing to do with
jokes, concludes researcher Prof. Robert Provine. For
years he has studied laughter and what provokes it.
Some of Provine's conclusions:
- Less than 20% of laughter was in response to
anything resembling a joke
- People are 30 times more likely to laugh in
groups than alone (hence, TV's laugh tracks)
- Women laugh more than men, except when they are
listening to a woman
- The talker chuckles nearly 50% more than his/her
Provine's approach to understanding is one that
"a visiting extraterrestrial might take were it to
encounter a group of laughing human beings." What
would an alien think of this sound coming from our faces?
Researching this question, Provine and his assistants
have logged a lot of time in malls and on the street,
eavesdropping on giggles, cackles, and whoops. In his
classes, he recorded people's laughter and analyzed the
data in an acoustic laboratory at the Washington DC's
National Zoo. He's even compared human laughter with that
Joining forces with Kim Bard of the Yerkes Regional
Primate Center in Atlanta, Provine observed chimps
laughing in play. Chimp and human laughter differ in many
ways. We laugh as we speak. Our laughter is basically
chopping, single expirations (ha ha ha). Chimps' laughter
is more a breathy expiration and inspiration, like
panting, and sounds more like ah ah ah.
One theory puts forth that this is one reason humans
have been unable to teach chimps to speak. Not just their
vocal structure is to blame. Their laughter is produced
differently. Chimps are unable to modulate the airflow:
In discovering how chimps laugh, researchers learn about
more than laughter.
Chimps mostly laugh in response to physical contact,
such during tickling, wrestling, or chasing (The one
being chased laughs the most.) Humans laugh mostly during
conversation, rather than physical contact.
As you would expect, people are more likely to laugh
in social contexts. Provine found that, in the absence of
stimulating media -TV, radio, or books - people are 30
times more likely to laugh in a group. Obviously, social
situations increase laughter.
But contrary to researchers' expectations, Provine
observed that most laughter is in the context of
conversation, not as a response to any structured attempt
to provoke laughter. The biggest bursts of laughter were
in response to such side-splitters as, "Look. It's
Andre" and "Are you sure?" Laughter mostly
follows such lame remarks.
Many researchers concentrate on the audiences. Provine
studied the speakers, too. He found that,
counterintuitively, the speakers laugh more than the
listeners do and females tend to laugh more often
In a study of 1,200 episodes of laughter, Provine
found that during same-gender conversation, "the
male speaker laughs more often than his male audience and
a female speaker laughs more often than her female
audience. In contrast, a typical male speaker will laugh
slightly less often than his female audience will.
The most striking differences between the genders were
found in episodes that involved female speakers and male
audiences. In such instances, female speakers laughed
more than twice as often as their male audience did.
"Cross-cultural evidence suggests that males are
the leading humor producers and females are the leading
laughers. These differences are already present by the
time that joking first appears around six years of
Now, what does this have to do with health?
For one thing, laughter increases activity in cells
that attack viruses and tumor cells. In this series I'll
discuss such aspects as medical prescriptions for
laughter, on-line sites discussing laughter for medical
benefit, and phenomena such as contagious laughter.
If you want some laughs, go to the Joke Contest page
at my web site: http://www.spacey.net/smock
. But don't forget to come back here to read other
Sideroad writers' columns.
What do the experts say about laughter and health?
Does laughter improve YOUR health? Got any
experiences to share? Or jokes for next week? If so, e-mail
me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Back to the top / The New Sideroad/ Go to the latest column
Issue # 9
Tuesday, Dec. 30, 1997
1 of 4 - how your mattress can make all the
Part 2 of 4 - strategies to help you
Part 3 of 4 - more strategies to
help you sleep.
Part 4 of 4 - what is a sleep log
and how does it work?
Stats indicate that for those over
the age of 50, one of every two women and one in eight
men will have an osteoporosis-related fracture. Our
sedentary lifestyle puts us at risk for this disease. Yet
osteoporosis is not inevitable. Here's some information
on this disease and how we can prevent it.
Part 1 of 4
- - details the likelihood of developing
this disease, and its dangers and consequences.
Part 2 of 4
- - presents the risk factors of
osteoporosis and some of our misconceptions about the
Part 3 of 4
- - insights into diagnosis, and basic
Part 4 of 4
- - new medical treatments to stop
osteoporosis, and safety in the home of osteoporosis
What the experts say. . .