Dr Tal Ben-Shahar – Harvard Open Courses 1504 – Positive Psychology 20

This session is about humour presented by Shawn Achor. A full lecture video is here.

Shawn has a different teaching style from Tal’s. He speaks much faster but the content making people laugh.

I often think people who are humorous are genetically funny. Actually, we can use the Beta press to change the way that we actually view our environment so it’s actually adaptive for us and we learn to be humorous.

The sympathetic nervous system (which makes us energetic) and the parasympathetic nervous system (which makes us clam) work together to make us react to the world. The soprano effect, called by Shaw, is the chronic activation of the sympathetic nervous system. Humour is like mindfulness and meditation, activates the sympathetic nervous system.

Laughing itself is both medicine and exercise.

Humour increases pain tolerance and reduces pressure. It is a luxury.

Humour is extremely contagious because we are actually hardwired for empathy for other people and the mirror neurons in our brain begin to active when we see other people laughing.

Humour is a signal of cognitive fitness.

Humour can make us transfer things that we thought were negative or bad or upsetting in the past.

Six ways of increasing your humorous level:

  • Writing Journals – write the things that make you laugh over the day, think the things funny and change the shape of it and reform the pattern in your brain.
  • Watching funny people – because of mirror neurons, you actually pick up the rhythm from them.
  • TQP (the Two Question Process) – repeating to ask the two questions to yourself “why am I so funny?”, “Why nobody recognise this?”
  • The permission to be subhuman.
  • The variety is absolutely the spice of life. The more you can change up the pattern you are doing, the more you see the potentials in your environment.
  • The Tetris Effect.
 Interesting research findings:
  • On eResources – 97:3 ratio of research on negative factors to humour research.
  • Medical School Syndrome – the way we study the world around of us actually change the lens through which we view the world
  • The Tetris Effect – It makes player see the Tetris shapes when they are not playing the game. Shaw called it as a cognitive afterimage.
  • 10 to 15 minutes of laughing is enough to burn the amount of calories of a medium size block of chocolate.
  • Our mammalian brains are actually hardwired for variety.

People and their work:

  • Three people in the area of humour research: Sigmund Freud, Henri Bergson and Shaw Achor.
  • Sigmund Freud’s book Jokes and Their Relation to The Unconscious. He argues that homour is way that allows for id impulses come out. Humour is a psychological release.
  • Henri Bergson argues that humour is the point in which we correct somebody when we slip or fall off the human developmental trajectory. Humour is a social “corractive”.
  • Shaw Achor believes that humour is a mindful lens through which we view the world. Humour is a cognitive lens.
  • Richard Wiseman’s book The Luck Factor
  • Barbara Fraley’s research on humorous and encounters
  • Eric R. Bressler studied the difference between men and women in terms of humour
  • John Gottman’s Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
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