The third Mind Bites podcast features neuroscientist Professor Sophie Scott being interviewed about her research on laughter. Laughter is such a common part of everyday life. But it is surprisingly little-studied and turns out to have a rich complexity that belies its familiarity. Sophie Scott is a leading expert on laughter and – as you might expect given her chosen research topic – has a knack for bringing the experiments to life.
Laughter is a great example for pressing the project’s question about the difference between subpersonal processing and the personal level. Is laughter really an uncontrollable urge that grabs hold of us and sets us shaking? Isn’t consciousness crucial, for example to understand the subtle meaning of a joke or the incongruity of a social situation? What is the role of our social group and why do we laugh less often when on our own? The intriguing story that Professor Scott tells about how laughter works shows that psychological processes play out in the real world in ways that involve a complex interplay of the automatic and the deliberate, the individual and the social, and the conscious and the unconscious.