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The Last Laugh

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 November 2014


Freud writes in his startlingly innovative book, Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious, that “…our philosophical inquiries have not awarded to wit the important role that it plays in our mental life.” He pointed out the difficulties of studying the phenomenon scientifically, and went on to analyze the meanings of jokes and why we laugh. He emphasized the “pleasure in economy” that the central nervous system derives from the pithy nature of the witty synthesis. Since then, several authors have brought forward their own theories, Arthur Koestler among them. However, neuroscientists have shown little interest in the subject.

This needs urgent attention. It is therefore welcome that at least one group of scientists is taking jokes seriously. They set up a “Laugh Lab” Web site to investigate humor, and respondents from all over the world were asked to vote for the “best” of several jokes displayed on the site. Their responses will be analyzed and hypotheses tested.

The Neurology of Behavior
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2001

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