Tag Archives: #laugh

How to Heal From Painful Memories? (Psychology)

Nick Morgan offers a way to start to let go of the past in his article.

We know from a good deal of research on memory how unreliable it is, partly because retrieving a memory is an active process that changes the memory as we call it up. When accuracy is important, then, we have to be careful not to embellish or distort the memory as we recall it, talk about it, or testify about it.

The memory is going to change anyway, but let’s not make it worse.

But what about if the memory is a bad one and we want to heal? Fear, for example, is hard to forget, and dredging it up may change it in ways that make it more intense.

I had a difficult role as a young actor, singing the lead in a musical where most of the music was pitched a little too high for my voice. Every night I would work myself up into a mental cramp of terror before the curtain went up, anticipating the squeaks that were going to emanate from my mouth when I tried to launch into song. That experience led to a case of stage fright that I wrestled with for many years in a variety of settings, but especially when music was involved.

So when new research came along recently that suggested a way to lessen this fear-based memory and stage fright, I paid close attention. It turns out that if you remember your memories from a third-person perspective, as if you were narrating a story about someone else, then they get weaker, less vivid, and less emotional.

Think of it as a kind of editing of our memories. In theory, this practice should allow us to master the memories and grow beyond them.

Perhaps I could at last shed that stage fright and have a lot more fun when I’m performing in public!

More generally, we should all get to work on our memory banks enhancing the positive ones and lessening the negative ones. Put the good ones into first-person narratives and the bad ones into the third person, and you should be well on the way to having a happier brain.

Many clients I’ve worked with over the years who suffer from stage fright report an initial incident that caused the fear to crystallize or get worse. Often it’s a moment in the middle-school years where they had to give a speech to the class and something went wrong. The students laughed, or the teacher spoke harshly, and the rest is a traumatic memory. Now, perhaps, they have a way to ease that fear. Tell the story as you recall it, but in the third person, as if it happened to someone else, and watch the memories fade, the trauma heal, and the stage fright dissipate.

At least, that’s the theory. If you have a similar memory that haunts you, then please try this out and let me know what the result is. Wouldn’t it be amazing to be able to shake off those bad memories for good?

This article is originally written by Nick Morgan, who is president of Public Words Inc., a communications consulting company, and the author of books including Can You Hear Me?: How to Connect with People in a Virtual World. This article is republished here from psychology today under common creative licenses.

Why Some Families Laugh Together and Others Fight? (Psychology)

Daniel Lobel suggested how to laugh more and fight less.

Family traditions are often passed down from generation to generation. These patterns families have of relating to each other are complex, but changing a single pattern can have a dramatic effect while benefiting the family for generations to come. In this blog we will look at a variable so powerful that it literally defines the family as being a family versus a group of individuals who happen to share DNA.


Cooperation versus Competition

Healthy families are defined by their level of cooperation. Individuals in these families champion each other’s goals and well-being. They enjoy sharing because they derive pleasure from the pleasure of those they love. Fundamentally cooperative relationships are associated with individuals feeling part of a larger unit: the family. They protect and defend the integrity of the family unit which strengthens the bonds and increases each member’s sense of safety and security.

Competition is fundamentally antagonistic. You win by causing your competitor to lose. In some families there is a perception of limited resources and family members compete with each other to get their share. These resources can be tangible, such as money, food, preferred bedroom, etc. Or they can be intangible, such as being the center of attention or the favorite of a matriarch or patriarch. Competition in families encourages individuals to fend for themselves at the expense of other family members. This drives the entire family towards the breaking point. This is where individuals no longer value being part of the family and the entire structure collapses. This results in alienation among family members that sometimes can last a lifetime.

While there are some families that are consistently cooperative in all aspects of each other’s lives, and other families that are competitive in almost all aspects of each other’s lives, most families fall somewhere in between. Parents and grandparents set the tone for the family. Using the following tools and techniques will help you increase the cooperativeness of your family.

Discourage Interruption

Talking over another person is a fundamentally competitive act. It serves to compete with the speaker for his/her attention or the attention of others. Interrupting others is also inconsistent to listening to others and compels others to compete in order to be heard. This sometimes results in family gatherings where everyone talks at the same time and people don’t really listen to each other.

Avoid Sibling Rivalry

Parents sometimes encourage siblings to compete for their attention or approval. This results in an atmosphere of competitiveness and inhibits cooperation. Below are some common examples:


Avoid statements like “Why can’t you be more like your sister?” that directly compare siblings to each other.


Avoid statements like “Don’t tell your brother I told you but he is considering divorce”. This is a form of triangulation in that it creates an alliance between parent and one child against the other child.

Preferential treatment

Do not show preferential treatment to siblings or their spouses. If you treat one child to dinner, you treat both. If you bring a present for one child, you bring for both (other than special occasions, such as birthdays).

Create an atmosphere of abundance

Wherever possible make resources available in abundance. When gathering, plan sufficient time for family members to express themselves. Plan sufficient food and beverage so that people don’t feel that they are competing with others for food.

Replace Judgment with Honor

When family members feel judged, any sense of cooperation that they experience is contingent upon approval. Honoring the family member’s endeavors will convey a strong sense of cooperation. Following are two versions of a conversation that Barry might have with his two sons, Brad and Dennis.

Brad:               Cindy and I are thinking of home schooling the children due to COVID-19.

Dad:                I don’t think children get the same quality of education from home schooling that they get in a classroom.

Dennis:           Jody and I are going to send little Joey to private school.

Dad:                Isn’t that expensive?

Dennis:           Of course.

Dad:                I will help you with the tuition.

Dennis:           Thanks Dad.

In the above dialogue, Barry judges Brad’s decision to home school his children and discourages him, while supporting his other son’s decision to send his child to private school. This encourages his son’s to compete for his approval and resources and creates resentment and antagonism between the brothers, thus increasing the chances of conflict.

Below is an example of how Barry might have handled the same conversation slightly differently with a dramatically different result.

Brad:               Cindy and I are thinking of home schooling the children due to COVID-19.

Dad:                How does that work?

Brad:               We get a curriculum from the school system and follow it. The school provides online support for parents to make sure that we are all teaching the same subjects.

Dennis:           Jody and I are going to send Joey to private school.

Dad:                Brad that would give you and Cindy access to public and private school curriculum and maybe you can share with Dennis some of the ideas from the parent support system in case Joey’s school has to close due to COVID.

Dennis:           That would be great.

In this version of the same conversation, Barry is able to avoid competition between his sons and encourage cooperation. Because he honored both approaches and joined them into a single goal, rather than encourage the sons to compete, now if he offers to provide financial support for Joey’s private school he is supporting both of his sons’ endeavors

If your family has a tradition of encouraging competition rather than cooperation among family members then the resulting gatherings may seem “normal” to you. Many large families routinely talk over each other and compete for resources at all gatherings. If this is the case, then your entire family is missing out on the opportunity to share intimacy at deeper level that is possible only in an atmosphere of cooperation. Why not give it a try?

This article is originally written by Daniel S. Lobel, who is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Katonah, NY, as well as an Assistant Clinical Professor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in the Department of Psychiatry and is republished here from psychology today under common creative licenses. To read original click here.

Why It’s OK to Laugh During Sex? (Psychology)

You queefed. They must be disgusted. You lack an immediate erection or orgasm too quickly. They must think I’m less of a man. The attempt at a new position ends in epic failure or you hit the wrong opening. They must think I don’t know what I’m doing. You are either too dry or too wet. They must think there’s something physically wrong with me. Maybe your partner wants to have sex, you want to have sex, but you worry what they will think of your body. Will they still want to have sex with me when they see me naked?


These are the thoughts that derail sexual intimacy, reinforce negative body perceptions, close communication, and create a gap in interpersonal relationships. The easiest solution to preventing prolonged embarrassment and getting on track with open sexual communication? Humor.

Making a quick joke, even if it’s self-effacing, is the perfect way to right the ship. Laughter is already attributed to several mental and physical benefits, including relaxation of the body, boosting of the immune system, relief of stress, release of endorphins, an increase of oxygen to the brain, and improvement in mood. In addition to mental and physical benefits, laughter provides social benefits, such as those found within sexual encounters, especially in cases when things become awkward.

Erving Goffman noted the potential for embarrassment during any interactional process wherein “the individual is expected to possess certain attributes, capacities, and information which, taken together, fit together into a self that is at once coherently unified and appropriate for the occasion” (1967:105). One face-saving technique is the use of humor. Goffman views it as one of several exercises to break the ice, thereby “explicitly referring to his failing in a way that shows he is detached, able to take his condition in stride” (1963:116).

Spencer Cahill (1985) took this idea to the bathroom, literally, when he studied interactional processes in public restrooms. In the category of odor, Cahill pointed out how the use of humor diffused potentially embarrassing situations in which an individual caused a noxious odor to permeate a crowded bathroom. In making a joke of the situation, the individual not only shed himself of embarrassment or public scorn, but also reminded others that they were also capable of such human frailty and shaming was not necessary. When a comedian is self-effacing on stage, the reaction of laughter they receive is not aimed as much at the comedian, but the recognition of the commonality shared for all who have felt or acted in the given situation.

While there are several techniques to curb embarrassment, and Goffman suggests several, one must be cognizant of potential consequences. Ignoring an occurrence, such as when your partner does something awkward during sex, can act to conceal the issue. No conversation begins and your partner may be in a holding pattern wondering whether or not you noticed and, if you did, what your silence meant, thereby not resolving the issue and setting your partner up to internalize it. Even mere passing recognition of the event can seal the embarrassment. In mentioning it and moving on, your partner may perceive your reaction as a judgment.

Humor, by contrast, acts to alleviate the tension, dispel embarrassment, and add to the playfulness of the sexual encounter. Humor, however, does not include teasing or laughing at your partner in a bullying manner. Humor of this sort will certainly embed embarrassment and shame. Being able to laugh together enhances intimacy and opens up an opportunity to talk about your insecurities within an already established welcoming environment, all of which acts to intensify pleasure.

Sex should be fun and playful, but such intimacy does risk exposure to embarrassment and awkward moments. What humor succeeds in doing is to maintain the playful environment while opening up the conversation. Yes, women queef, here’s what it means. Yes, sometimes men orgasm too quickly, let’s talk about it without shame. Nothing is more important for a healthy sex life than communication. If you have to share in a laugh to get there—laugh. And it’s perfectly acceptable to laugh together about it all.

This article is originally written by David W. Wahl, Ph.D., who is a social psychologist and sex researcher. His work focuses on issues related to sexual desire and behavior, shaming and stigmatization, sex and gender, sexual violence, sex work, and human trafficking.

References: (1) Cahill, Spencer E. 1985. “Meanwhile Backstage: Public Bathrooms and the Interaction Order” in Urban Life, 14(1): 33-58. (2) Goffman, Erving. 1963. Stigma. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster. (3) Goffman, Erving. 1967. Interaction Ritual. New York, NY: Pantheon Books.

This article is republished here from psychology today under common creative licenses.

Can You Tell Fake Laughter From Real Laughter? (Culture / Language)

The only thing worse than telling an amazing joke and hearing crickets is telling an amazing joke and hearing fake laughter. Whether it’s coming from a morning radio DJ or a glad-handing salesperson, there’s something about a forced laugh that feels downright wrong. But would you still have that feeling if you traveled halfway around the world and told a joke to a culture you’d never encountered? A new study says yes.

Communications professor Greg Bryant has made a name for himself as the “Laughter Guy” — he’s spent a lot of time and energy on the topic. It’s easy to understand why he finds it so fascinating. Laughter feels uniquely human, but we share the habit with many other animals. It feels like it’s an individual’s reaction to a joke or funny gag, but it’s been proven that it’s more about group bonding than any punchline. He’s written on the subject of fake laughter in the past, but in a soon-to-be-published study, he’s helmed the first cross-cultural investigation of fake laughter in the world.

Armed with a set of real and fake laughs from American women, Bryant challenged 884 participants from 21 different countries spread across all six inhabited continents to identify the real laughter. Try a few yourself in the video below:

As it turned out, they were naturals. Nearly two-thirds of the participants, on average, were able to accurately guess which one was which, regardless of whether they came from the same culture — or even if they shared the same language. That all supports Bryant’s idea that laughter is something intrinsic to the human species, and not something with cultural roots. And he’s got lots more evidence to back that up.

We mentioned earlier how humans aren’t the only animals that laugh, and how not all laughs are meant to express approval of a punchline. So if laughter goes back further than the human race (perhaps about 10 million years further), then what was it for in the first place? Well, if you consider medicine to be something that helps you survive, then laughter might really be the best medicine after all. As our primate ancestors developed a survival strategy that relied on a strong social network, affirming those social bonds may have grown more and more important. In fact, both chimps and human children have been observed to engage in more and longer play activities when they laugh together — and the former is certainly not telling knock-knock jokes.

There’s one more fascinating detail to mention on this topic. Another study (also by Bryant) suggested that laughter might convey important information not only to the person you’re laughing with but also to anyone else who might be listening. When listeners (again from several different cultures) were tasked with telling which laughs were shared between strangers and which were between friends, they were able to do so with surprising reliability. In other words, a laugh doesn’t just tell your friend that you feel close to them: It also tells anyone who might be listening that you’ve got friends on your side.

Canned Laughter Makes Dad Jokes Funnier (Psychology)

We’re living in a new golden age of television. Streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon are locked in an arms race, pouring billions of dollars into original content. Traditional networks have been forced to step up their offerings and are scrambling to create their own streaming services to compete.

And yet, some of the most-watched shows on said streaming services are old standbys that have been off the air for ages, like “Friends” or “That 70s Show.” One recognizable trait that distinguishes these sitcoms? The laugh track, which elevates Phoebe’s goofy antics and softens Red Forman’s fatherly threats. While you might think that the laugh track is cheesy or outdated, researchers from University College London recently published a paper in Current Biology showing that added laughter actually enhances the humor of even the worst jokes. That’s right: dad jokes.

Long before “dad joke” was a phrase, laugh tracks were first used in radio to establish that a show was recorded in front of a live studio audience and to make the person listening or watching at home feel like part of that audience. Of course, in a real live performance, jokes are never repeated and sound is never edited. The same isn’t true of a live taping, so a laugh track helped to make second takes sound funnier and fill any gaps in editing. It made its first TV appearance in 1950, and it spread like wildfire, giving television producers more flexibility to shoot in places where it would be impossible to have a studio audience.

These radio and television producers knew it, and a 1992 study confirmed it: Laughter is contagious. These scientists wanted to take things a step further and see whether canned laughter affected the funniness of the joke itself.

First, the team assembled a list of 40 so-called “dad jokes,” the kind of humor you’d expect to find on a popsicle stick or to tickle a 6-year-old. Here’s a sampling of some jokes from the study:

• Why couldn’t the toilet paper cross the road? Because it got stuck in a crack.
• Why can’t you give Elsa a balloon? Because she will “Let it Go.”
• Why was the tomato all red? Because it saw the salad dressing.
• What do you call an apple that farts? A fruity tooty.

The team established a baseline ranking of how funny each joke was on a scale of one to seven, with the highest baseline ranking being somewhere between three and four. Sophie Scott, one of the paper’s authors, explained to NPR that the jokes were intentionally bad.

“We wanted it to be possible for them to be made funnier because if we went into this kind of study with absolutely fantastic jokes, there’s the danger that they couldn’t be improved upon,” she said.

Next, a professional comedian delivered the jokes to a new group of volunteers. Half the jokes were paired with laughter that was clearly forced and the other half were paired with laughter that was more spontaneous and genuine. The researchers created two random sets of jokes so that each joke was heard with each type of laughter, but each participant only heard and rated each joke once.

Regardless of the type of laughter, adding laughs significantly enhanced how funny the raters found the jokes. But the team also found that the type and intensity of laughter could pump up the funny even further: The jokes with the highest ratings were those paired with the laughter that seemed most authentic.

Interestingly, 24 of the 72 participants that the team tried their dad jokes on were on the autism spectrum. That means they may have trouble processing complex social cues, including recognizing others’ emotions from body language and tone of voice, and sometimes even recognizing and expressing their own emotions.

Previous studies established that autistic people preferred slapstick humor, in which the comedy was very literal and therefore easier for them to grasp. Another previous study seemed to imply that autistic people process laughter differently: Neurotypical children enjoyed cartoons more when they were paired with a laugh track or when they watched the show with another person, while those things didn’t have much of an effect for autistic kids.

However, in this instance, the results were the same across the board regardless of whether participants were neurotypical or autistic, which suggests that both groups were processing the presence and type of laughter the same way. The only difference was that the autistic participants tended to rate all the jokes as funnier overall.

“… this may be because the neurotypical adults were more aware that these ‘dad jokes’ are considered childish and uncool, while the autistic adults were more open to such jokes,” the authors wrote.

So even though it might feel corny, the laugh track probably won’t be going anywhere. Besides, as some Redditors point out, removing the laugh track from classic sitcoms can make them feel downright creepy.

There Are Two Types Of Tickling (Psychology)

You know the difference — there’s the type of tickling that causes a rush up your spine, and the aggressive laughing-till-it-hurts kind. Turns out, they actually have different names: knismesis and gargalesis, respectively.

The two types of tickling were named by psychologists G. Stanley Hall and Arthur Allin in 1897. Knismesis is reminiscent of a feather trailing across your skin, or perhaps a bug walking on you. It’s also the type of tickling that you can perform on yourself. Gargalesis, on the other hand, is more aggressive and can cause breathless laughter or even pain. It tends to target specific areas of the body where we are sensitive to tickling: underarms, waists, ribs, feet, and necks.