The Washington Post:
Chris Westbury was trying to get work done, and everyone around him kept laughing.
As part of a study on aphasia, a speech and language disorder, the University of Alberta psychology professor was running a study in which test subjects were shown strings of letters and asked to distinguish real words from made-up ones. But every time the (non) word “snunkoople” cropped up, the subjects would collapse with mirth.
Many psychologists believe that laughter and amusement evolved to signal that a surprise is not a threat. Peter McGraw, a leading proponent of what’s called “benign violation theory,” told Wired that a laugh is a response to a violation — something shocking, upsetting, or confusing — that turns out not to be so bad. It’s how we show that an off-color comment about 9/11 is just a Sarah Silver joke; that a man tripping up the stairs is just Charlie Chaplin performing slapstick; that a weird, unfamiliar word is just a Dr. Seuss-ism. It’s also how our hunter-gatherer ancestors likely alerted one another that the rustle in the bushes they just heard was a rabbit rather than saber-toothed tiger.
Read the whole story: The Washington Post