Full details

Basic Books
  • Hardcover
  • $26.99 / $30.00 CAN
  • ISBN 13: 978-0-465-03170-2
"Humor is worthy of serious academic study, [Weems] argues in his book, Ha! The Science of When We Laugh and Why, because it yields insights into how our brains process a complex world and how that, in turn, makes us who we are.... Dr. Weems makes a good case that humor makes us our best selves, and that we should all laugh more.... For those of us who are more Grinch than Groucho, Dr. Weems says it is possible to improve your sense of humor, either through training or by increasing your exposure to funny media and people, along with lots of practice. To his credit, he even tried some stand-up of his own one night at a club in Baltimore. Did he kill it? Apparently not. Luckily for us, it looks as if he'll stick to his day job."
New York Times

"In Ha!, Scott Weems shows where funniness lies in the head."
Washington Post

"[A]n intriguing book."
Wall Street Journal

"[Weems] marshals an impressive range of studies and statistics to make his point. He shows that we process jokes in much the same way that we tackle problems, getting a rush of dopamine when we succeed. Laughter, meanwhile, brings all sorts of benefits.... [Ha!] makes a compelling case for seeing the comic side of life."
Financial Times

Ha!

The Science of When We Laugh and Why

By Scott Weems

An entertaining tour of the science of humor and laughter

Humor, like pornography, is famously difficult to define. We know it when we see it, but is there a way to figure out what we really find funny—and why?

In this fascinating investigation into the science of humor and laughter, cognitive neuroscientist Scott Weems uncovers what's happening in our heads when we giggle, guffaw, or double over with laughter. While we typically think of humor in terms of jokes or comic timing, in Ha! Weems proposes a provocative new model. Humor arises from inner conflict in the brain, he argues, and is part of a larger desire to comprehend a complex world. Showing that the delight that comes with "getting" a punchline is closely related to the joy that accompanies the insight to solve a difficult problem, Weems explores why surprise is such an important element in humor, why computers are terrible at recognizing what's funny, and why it takes so long for a tragedy to become acceptable comedic fodder. From the role of insult jokes to the benefit of laughing for our immune system, Ha! reveals why humor is so idiosyncratic, and why how-to books alone will never help us become funnier people.

Packed with the latest research, illuminating anecdotes, and even a few jokes, Ha! lifts the curtain on this most human of qualities. From the origins of humor in our brains to its life on the standup comedy circuit, this book offers a delightful tour of why humor is so important to our daily lives.

Scott Weems received a PhD in cognitive neuroscience from UCLA, and an MFA in creative writing from Lesley University. Previously a research scientist at the University of Maryland Center for Advanced Study of Language, he lives in Little Rock, Arkansas.
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