Ivory Towers: When you have to laugh

THIS week we have speakers who laugh more than their audiences and subjects of tickling experiments who may laugh if the experimenter says 'koochie-koochie'.

In 'Laughter Punctuates Speech: Linguistic, Social and Gender Contexts of Laughter' (Ethology, vol 95, 1993), Robert R Provine draws some fascinating conclusions from the analysis of 1,200 episodes of laughter, naturally occurring in public places at or around the University of Maryland. The first thing to note is that laughter ('a universal, stereotyped, species-typical component of the human vocabulary that is emitted almost exclusively in social settings') occurs almost exclusively at the end of a complete statement or question. Only in 0.8 percent of cases did laughter interrupt what was being said. And more often than not it was the speaker, not the audience, who would laugh.

'Most naturally occurring conversational laughter was not a consequence of structured attempts at humour,' Dr Provine reports. Indeed, typical statements preceding laughter were: 'I'll see you guys later'; 'Look, it's Andre]'; or 'Can I join you?'. 'He didn't realise he was sitting in dog shit until he put his hand down to get up' is cited as a rather atypical laughter-provoking line. He concludes: 'Most pre- laugh dialogue is like that of an interminable television situation comedy scripted by an extremely ungifted writer.'

One conclusion is that 'laughter deserves more attention than that accorded to it as a behavioural curiosity related to humour.'

For non speech-related laughter, however, we must turn to 'Pavlovian Conditioning of the Tickle Response of Human Subjects: Temporal and Delay Conditioning' (Perceptual and Motor Skills, vol 77, 1993) by B Newman, M O'Grady, C S Ryan and N S Hemmes. Following T Hoshikawa's classic 1991 paper, Effects of Attention and Expectation on Tickle Sensation, the present researchers tickled the soles of the feet of four subjects selected for ticklishness.

'Stroking motions started on the subject's heel, going up to the base of toes and back down (approximately three seconds).' The tickle response was investigated 'within the Pavlovian model' to see if subjects became conditioned to react to a gesture that precedes the tickle, rather than the tickle itself. Whereas Hoshikawa's pre-tickle gesture was the verbal stimulus 'cotyo-cotyo', the present researchers changed it to 'koochie- koochie'.

The findings were somewhat obscured by one subject called Susie being too ticklish, and confirmation among others that the response to a tickle may be suppressed by conscious effort. The etiology of ticklishness is still to be explained and further research is needed.

Finally, we should draw your attention to 'Effect of Preference for Rock Music on Magnitude-Production Scaling Behaviour in Young Adults: A Validation (Perceptual and Motor Skills, vol 77, 1993), in which Fucci, Harris, Petrosino and Banks demonstrated a clear tendency, under experimental conditions, for young adults who like rock music to play Led Zeppelin louder than those who did not.

Arts and Entertainment
By Seuss! ‘What Pet Shall I Get?’ hits the bookshops this week
Books
Arts and Entertainment
The mushroom cloud over Hiroshima after Enola Gray and her crew dropped the bomb
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Elliott outside his stationery store that houses a Post Office
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Rebecca Ferguson, Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible Rogue Nation

Film review Tom Cruise, 50, is still like a puppy in this relentless action soap opera

Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams in True Detective season 2

TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

    I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
    Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

    Margaret Attwood on climate change

    The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

    What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
    Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

    The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

    Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
    Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

    Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

    The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
    Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

    Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

    The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
    Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

    Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

    Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

    Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

    The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
    10 best waterproof mascaras

    Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

    We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
    Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

    Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

    Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
    Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

    England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

    The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
    Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

    Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

    British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'