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Ha!: The Science of When We Laugh and Why

3.49  ·  Rating details ·  315 Ratings  ·  50 Reviews
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
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published March 4th 2014 by Basic Books (first published January 1st 2014)
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Nathaniel Lee
Apr 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I am a tremendous reader of pop-science books, and I flatter myself that I can usually spot the differences between the ones that take the science seriously (Ramachandran, Sacks, and even Mary Roach, for all her winking and nudging) and the others (*coughcoughGladwellcough*) that take a couple of possibly interesting points and then inflate them until they flail and flop like those dancing wind-sock puppets outside of car dealerships. Ha!, I'm happy to report, is solidly in the former camp. Rela ...more
د.أمجد الجنباز
Jan 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
يتحدث الكتاب عن الاساس للضحك والنكتة والفكاهة
وسببها وكيف تحدث ولماذا تجعلنا نضحك
الكتاب يركز على الاساس العلمي، وليس على كيفية صنع النكتة والفكاهة
Mark York
Nov 13, 2016 rated it liked it
This book summarized a lot of psychology on humor and why we laugh. It also discussed the history of humor in our society and standup comedy. I felt that it was a collection of facts and anecdotes that lacked a clearly-developed thesis or takeaway message. Still, it was worth the read, especially if you want to understand humor.
Oct 30, 2015 rated it liked it
I expected more...more evidence-based research and less social commentary and stories and jokes. I didn't need the jokes.
Brigid Keely
Dec 18, 2015 rated it it was ok
"Ha!: The Science of When We Laugh and Why," by Scott Weems, is a look at the reasons humans (and rats) have a sense of humor and laugh at things. What causes the laughter? Why do we do it? What are the benefits? Sadly, it's pretty slow paced, Weems doesn't seem to have a handle on the specifics of why certain jokes are considered funny, and in the parts that I read has chosen to focus only on male comedians... all of whom have made their careers denigrating women & other minorities.

Two exam
Mar 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book synthesizes current scientific research on humor, which continues to emerge, according to the author, a cognitive neuroscientist.

By age ten, humor correlates with IQ. Keeping a funny outlook is the best way to stay cognitively sharp.

Fun conclusions throughout the book: Common sense walks, humor dances. … A humorous attitude signifies an engaged mind. … People who are quick to laugh are quick to forget stressful experiences. … Because the human brain can hold two or more opposing ideas
Jun 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: comedy
Perhaps the author wrote about a boring subject in an interesting way. Or perhaps the author wrote about an interesting subject in a boring way. Whatever the case, I found the book mostly boring.
Jun 11, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, science
For starters, note that this is not a funny book, it's a book about what's funny; if you want to laugh, try the humor section at the library. And it won't make you a funnier comedian, except maybe a little bit by accident; if that's what you want, find a workshop at a comedy club. This isn't what Weems is trying to do: rather, as the subtitle says, this is a science book, about this strange thing called humor: what is it? Why do humans find it enjoyable? How did it arise in the first place?
Tim Oldakowski
Dec 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I can't say enough good things about this book. While I don't study neuroscience...or any science for that matter...I found this book accessible in explaining, well, "when we laugh and why." I cannot wait to teach this in my Critical Reading class next spring. This is not a how-to book. You won't become funnier from reading it, nor will you be prepared to do stand up...but you will come away with an understanding of the importance and value of humor. Many times in my life I've been told that I'm ...more
Jun 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
La verdad es que es muy recomendado, esta es una invitación a todos ellos que se animen a leerlo, no perderán nada. Es que es un gran libro. Tal y como explica, no es un manual para hacer chistes... Simplemente es un libro que te explica toda la ciencia que se encuentra tras el motivo de la risa y por qué nos reímos de los chistes. Es un libro asombroso, liviano y a su vez entretenido. Para la búsqueda científica que tenía sobre el humor, aclaró muchas dudas y logró hacer que comprenda gran part ...more
Mister Mank
Jun 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Having read Robert Provine's LAUGHTER and Peter McGraw and Joel Warner's THE HUMOR CODE, I conclude that Scott Weems's HA! is the best of the three. Content-wise, there's a lot of overlap between them, but Weems is more direct in his methods, with little allegiance to any one theory of humor. It's the best-written, and, better still, there's little to no attempt at humor in the writing. (Leave that to the comedians!)
Dec 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Fun book, with lots of laughs, as you might expect. However
, the real purpose was analysis of humor. For instance, what is it that makes us laugh and what does laughing do for us. One note, “”it is hard to be in a bad mood when you are laughing. “ Also humorous presentations help people learn better. Another plus, I just liked the way he presented , as if in a conversation.
May 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Great read. Gives you a different perspective on the many forms of humor and how it is delivered. Loved the first and second chapter discussing mostly the neuroscience behide the mechanisms of laugher because thats really my peak interest. But, the rest of the book really is less in depth with "dopamine" and more intriguing with evidence based laughter/humor studies conducted and their results.
Dec 05, 2017 rated it it was ok
Feb 03, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5. Great research and structure to the book. I don’t always agree with the conclusions from the studies, but it’s a great affirmation in why we should continue to find humor in life.
Stanley Trice
Apr 14, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: science
At the conclusion of the book, the author Scott Weems takes a humorous jab at himself by quoting Avner Ziv, “It is more enjoyable to read a humorous book than to read one explaining humor.”

This is not a book on how to be humorous or funny. This is strictly a scientific view of laughter, jokes, and why people laugh. Very technical in spots, Scott attempts to explain humor through previous studies, diagnosis, and experimentation. Whenever the book started to stray into being a funny book with joke
Jun 02, 2014 rated it liked it
Humor is hard to explain because you eventually have to explain how we understand anything in the world then separate out why some of that is funny. I'm reading it at the same time as The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny just because they came in at the library at the same time. Each book seems to mention similar things but each expounds more on certain topics. The best part of this book is the first 100 pages. After that I feel the author is just filling pages or overreac ...more
Apr 28, 2014 rated it liked it
** The serious need for humor **

Humor is a funny thing. What makes something funny...or not? What is the purpose of humor anyway? And, how can it improve our health and overall life attitude?

These are three basic questions that cognitive neuroscientist Scott Weems explores in his book. As he explains:
“_Ha!_ is about an idea. The idea is that humor and its most common symptom—laughter—are the by-products of possessing brains which rely on conflict. Because they constantly deal with confusion o
Mert Selcuk
Jun 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Ha! is a book that doesn't teach you a formula to be funny, but rather the basic concepts that lie underneath how humour works. The final chapters where the author started talking about the usage of humour in our professional lives, was the most interesting section for me. As an undergraduate student who is slowly getting into multiple job interviews, taking away some professional tactics of how to use humour in these type of situations were invaluable! Also as a reader who enjoys reading about ...more
Apr 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Ha! has a nice balance of interesting information, cheeky jokes, and references to have an easy flow to it while still being informative. Read this in three sessions, so it is a fast read. It isn't always compelling, but it certainly is interesting, and I took down a few quotes that sparked my curiosity. Good information to store in your pocket, and a good beginning guide to anyone interested in learning about humor. Some reviews were disappointed because they were expecting a "how to" book. Thi ...more
Oct 27, 2014 added it
Shelves: non-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mckenna Rice
I had a really hard time getting through this book. Although I appreciate the subject of this book and generally enjoy psychological or sociological non-fiction, for some reason this book was not compelling to me. I found the writing a bit dry and a bit repetitive--kind of like the research papers I write for school, to be honest. I would have appreciated more stories and studies and less analysis, especially when the analysis was the same thing over and over again--conflict resolution and surp ...more
Jun 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
While this book isn't funny, and is a bit disorganized I found it to be a great read. It's more of a textbook than an instruction manual for being funny. The book is divided into three parts: "What?", "What for?" and "So What". It combines science with specific jokes and funny incidents to explain why certain things are funny. There are lots of interesting factoids throughout the book. A concise explanation of much of humor yet it still raises interesting questions.
Ha! is an interesting look at the science of humor, which is different from the science of laughter. It's harder to study in some ways, actually, because laughter is a measurable physical response, and humor is all in your head. Weems talks about what is funny, why it's funny, how funny works in your brain, and how funny works in the world, as well as a little bit about the laughter that sometimes accompanies our perceptions of funny.
Bethany Stasikova
Ever catch yourself laughing at something that shouldn't be funny while watching the Colbert Report and wondered why? Or laughed uncontrollably at a friends wildly inappropriate joke? This book explains all of this and more.

Overall this is a fun and informative read that can easily be read in an afternoon or evening. The author takes several contemporary examples of humor to which the reader can easily connect and uses them as case studies to explain why we find a variety of things funny.
Jessica Robinson
Mar 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
Fun and informative, especially when it came to discussing the cognitive differences observed between men and women concerning humor. However at times the writing is a bit awkward, as though Weems felt unsure about what tone he should take. Despite that I would recommend it because it's short and unusual and that's usually enough for me.
Dru Pagliassotti
Aug 31, 2014 rated it liked it
An interesting neuroscientific and psychological view of humor — it addresses various differences in what people find humorous and why, touches on cultural differences in appreciation of humor (I'd like to know more about that!), and discusses the dynamics of the joke.
Mar 25, 2014 rated it liked it
Ha! is great fun. The author gets lazy sometimes when making generalizations about what men find funny vs women. I wrote a term paper in college on this topic so I have encountered many of these concepts before but it was still fun to read.
Doug Barton
Feb 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed the first third of the book. The premise was set up well. However, the early momentum began to dissipate because defining why we laugh is too broad of a topic to easily define. The author was trying to unify studies about laughter that could not easily be unified.
Jan 29, 2015 rated it liked it

I didn't go in with expectations of the book being funny but I was hoping to be more amused while I learned some scientific research into humor. I kept thinking to myself what a different book it would be if Mary Roach had taken on the topic. It was an interesting read but not a big wow.
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Scott Weems’s career began as an officer in the U.S. Coast Guard, where he served as communications officer onboard the USCGC YOCONA in Kodiak, Alaska. His travels then took him to New Orleans, Boston, Los Angeles, Annapolis, and Little Rock, earning graduate degrees in psychology, education, and creative writing along the way.

He also has a Ph.D. in cognitive neuroscience from U.C.L.A. and once m
More about Scott Weems

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“When we refer to someone as having a humorous personality, what we mean is that this person sees the ambiguity, confusion, and strife inherent in life and turns them into pleasure.” 1 likes
“The human brain is an obstinate beast. It doesn’t like being told what to do.” 1 likes
More quotes…