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HA! The Science of When We Laugh and Why. By Scott Weems. New York: Basic Books, 2014. 190 pp The efforts in attempt of explaining a joke has been considered futile. This has made thinkers over the ages to come up with theories explaining comedy. This was harder since none of them had brain-scanners. A neuroscientist, Scott Weems takes us through a tour of funny things
Weems starts his analysis by first discovering which part of the brain is responsible for humor. He states that humor is chemically triggered by release of dopamine chemical by the brain. Weems summarized the theory into dopamine reward circuit and how it works in exciting the brain, though chocolate, cartoons and video games also excites the brain. In the dopamine reward circuit, there is a part called the anterior cingulate area. This part is responsible for holding back response and resolving conflicts. This conflict is said to be desirable as it encourages adaptability.
Weems in his book also stated that laughter is the common symptom of humor and almost all aspect of our lives is improved by humor. In the course of this discussion, we come across different school of jokes like cheating wife joke, elephant joke and so many more.
He underplays the dark side of laughter meant for modern audience with positive psychology. For example, Plato’s motivation was from the fear of laughter’s power which was not being able to improve the quality of his stand-up’s health. Weems however warned about careless laughter that can trigger beating. Weems dwelt his research on medicinal prospects of laughter, however he underplays contrary evidence which indicate that consciousness predicts longevity and not the humor. Too much expectations are placed on laughter which is just a vocal that is just like speech and improves someone’s behavior rather than the health
Although Weems was unable to solve of the thorniest and oldest problem of humor, it is not necessary to confront complex problems head-on instead adopt the simple system useful in attacking complex systems such as the tittle of the book ‘ha’. These simple methods have produced unplanned discoveries which are guided by evolutionary perspective. A good example s the ha-ha which is believed to evolve from our primate ancestors which is sound of tickles. It was initially used to announce play and differentiate it from attacks.
In conclusion, Weens Scott tries to explain humor from the medicinal view. He tries to show hoe laughter, hence the tittle of the book, is very useful to human health. Being a neurologist, he understood the functioning of the brain clearly and used his knowledge in explaining the excitation procedure to even production of the ‘ha’ sound by human beings. He also explains the chemical responsible and the chemical reactions during the humorous process.
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