The Laughter Research Podcast







October 2016
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Today's podcast - released on none other than International Podcast Day...yes, it's a a follow up interview with Evan Jordan of Oklahoma State University.

If you are a new listener to the Laughter Research Podcast, you might like to check out the previous interview HERE. Evan has been the lead investigator on a study which has been examining various aspects of infant development. Needless to say, of particular interest to me is the laughter aspect of the research.

Evan sought to uncover the extent of contagiousness of positive emotions in infants, with a particular focus upon laughter. You might be very surprised by the findings, but you'll have to listen in to find out more on that.

We discuss the challenges and joys of working with infants in research and we discuss the future directions for research in the arena of contagious laughter. We also ponder the possibility of Evan earning an Oscar for her thank you 'Shout Out' at the end of the podcast.

During the conversation I mention an excellent book by Robert Provine. Check it out on Amazon. It's well worth picking up.


We also mention the innate aspect of laughter and discuss how infants who are born deaf and blind will develop laughter around the same stage of development as typical children.

A couple of interesting papers related to this topic:

No. 1 relates to the acoustic profile of laughter in congenitally deaf people:

In this paper the authors attribute some acoustic variation between the laughter of hearing people and deaf people as being "Due to a combination of the physiological and social factors that routinely affect profoundly deaf individuals, including low overall rates of vocal fold use and pressure from the hearing world to suppress spontaneous vocalizations." - In other words, invisible social rules influence how and when people laugh.

"Deaf individuals report experiencing social pressure to suppress spontaneous vocalizations, as these can be uncomfortably loud for the hearing (Leder and Spitzer, 1993)."

Makagon, M. M., Funayama, E. S., & Owren, M. J. (2008). An acoustic analysis of laughter produced by congenitally deaf and normally hearing college students. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 124(1), 472–483.

No. 2 relates to the use of laughter as a form of punctuation in deaf people using sign language:

Provine, R. R., & Emmorey, K. (2006). Laughter Among Deaf Signers. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 11(4), 403–409.

This paper is particularly relevant as it shows us how laughter is fluidly incorporated into more complex cognitive interactions and it indicates that the appropriate timing of 'conversational' laughter is a learned skill.

Direct download: EvanJordan2.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:00am UTC

My guest in podcast episode #15 is Merv Neal. Merv has a lengthy background in business, but a life threatening challenge to his health instigated a transformation in his approach to life. His goals switched from making money to improving the health of others and himself through the use of laughter.

Merv Neal

In this episode we explore Merv’s journey from Merv the businessman to Merv the Laughing Man and we learn about Merv’s involvement in medical and psychological research which involved laughter therapy. We also talk about the attitude to laughter in the business world and how Merv overcomes the challenge of turning serious business people from positions of adamant resistance to willing participation in his laughter sessions.

Direct download: Merv.mp3
Category:Interview -- posted at: 10:28am UTC

In this episode I set out my plans for the Laughter Research podcast for the rest of 2015 and I make a recommendation for an excellent psychology podcast - The Psych Files by Michael Britt.

Direct download: 14_Podcast_plans.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:24pm UTC

Today I speak with Evan Jordan of Oklahoma State University in the U.S. about her research in to the contagiousness of positive emotions in infants, through the use of infant laughter as a stimulus. 

If you would like to hear about how psychologists get babies to laugh and why it is that they want them to laugh, then you'll find this episode to be fascinating. 



Don't forget to check out the Laughter Store at

Direct download: EvanMcKenzieJordan.mp3
Category:Research -- posted at: 3:34pm UTC

Professor Sophie Scott is the deputy director for the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience in UCL (University College London).

While the main focus of her research is the neurobiology of speech perception, her work also includes the study of the neuroscience of laughter. She also dabbles in stand-up comedy.

Sophie believes that laughter is one of the most complex and nuanced things that we do. She feels that we should take laughter more seriously, both in terms of science, but also in terms of our experience, because very often, our laughter is telling us a lot more about how we feel about people we are laughing with than we might typically acknowledge to ourselves. 

In this episode we discuss the evolutionary basis for laughter, social differences in comedy appreciation, the neurology & physiology of laughter, how science is beginning to take laughter more seriously and a host of other topics in between.

Direct download: Sophie_Scott.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:38am UTC

The main focus of my conversation with Prof. Billig was the topic of his book Laughter and Ridicule: Towards a Social Critique of Humour (Published in association with Theory, Culture & Society) in which he explores the important role which ridicule and laughter play in shaping social behaviours. In his book, Michael takes a critical approach to the topics of laughter and humour and he questions the common assumptions which are made, in particular by popular and academic psychology.


Direct download: Billig.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:09pm UTC

Steve Cummins is an author, a broadcaster, a stand-up comedian, as well as being the resident host in the Laughter Lounge, Dublin's premier comedy venue. In this podcast episode (which was recorded in my kitchen - hence the echo) myself and Steve chat about his relationship with laughter and comedy and Steve proves that he can hold a conversation without cursing...much.

Direct download: SteveCummins.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:44pm UTC

Susan Cross is a director of and a partner in a company called TellTale. TellTale is a company which helps the management and staff of cultural and heritage sites to create days out, which visitors to the sites will remember and want to return to. 

Susan's consultancy, mentoring and advisory service in this area has resulted in her becoming one of the best known specialist in the field of enhanced visitor experience in the U.K. as well as in Ireland. Susan's extensive experience has resulted in her having a keen eye for the critical factors which make visits to heritage sites memorable and enjoyable experiences. 

One of those factors happens to be laughter. Susan has blogged on the effective use of laughter in enhancing customer experiences and she shares her knowledge with me in today's episode. 

Direct download: Susan_Cross.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:58pm UTC

Albert Nerenberg, director of the documentary 'Laughology' is today's guest. Since the Laughology movie, which is the main topic of discussion in today’s episode, Albert has continued to embrace laughter and he is regular international speaker and presenter on the topic of laughter. So, enjoy the episode and please remember to comment on the shownotes page, which can be found at

Direct download: AlbertNerenberg.mp3
Category:Interview -- posted at: 5:11pm UTC

Laughter Yoga is a very interesting phenomenon from a scientific perspective, because it’s so challenging to study in a rigorous way. There are various reasons for this, which I get into in greater detail in this episode. I also delve into some of the existing research on the subject and I ask, to what extent is the laughter aspect of Laughter Yoga the primary factor in promoting changes in people's well-being, when compared to 'non-laughter' exercise programmes?

Direct download: Laughter_Yoga._The_Trouble_with_Research.mp3
Category:Research -- posted at: 11:51am UTC