Pre thinking:

The saying goes,” Laugh and the world laughs with you, cry and you weep alone”. Like many old sayings this one has more than a slight element of truth. People are much more likely to engage in laughter when they are in the company of others than if they are alone (about 30 times more likely). In this VERY fast paced talk, cognitive neuroscientist Sophie Scott shares the science behind this, and other truth about laughter.

Who is she:

Sophie Scott is a cognitive neuroscientist at University College London. In her research, she investigates the neural basis of speech and voice recognition and the neural control of speech production. Currently she is focusing her research on the neuroscience behind laughter.

 Why Should you listen:

There is a growing body of knowledge within psychology that is detailing the benefits of positive affect (such as Seligman’s introduction of Positive Psychology and Mihaly Csikszentmihaly’s research on Flow.

As Psychology is reshaping at least part of it persona, it makes sense for students to keep up with these developments.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Describe the function of the rib cage in the production of speech sounds.
  2. Why is laughter the mortal enemy of talking and breathing?
  3. Nietzsche said that humans are the only animals that laugh. Summarize some of Scott’s responses as see discounts his conclusion.
  4. What are the two kinds of laughter we indulge in? Do they have different roots and purposes? Also, consider the differences between what she calls natural laughter and posed laughter – do people process them differently.
  5. Go to the website of Robert Levenson http://psychology.berkeley.edu/people/robert-w-levenson and read and summarize some of his recent research that was briefly mentioned in Sophie Scott’s presentation.
  6. How did laughter help her get through her father’s funeral? Survey people you know and see if they report similar instances when humor helped them deal with a serious matter and write up your findings.

Making connections:

Here is a news story that supports the notion that laughter is good medicine: http://www.helpguide.org/articles/emotional-health/laughter-is-the-best-medicine.htm

Why we laugh with Sophie Scott

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