We all laugh, but it’s an odd behaviour if you stop to think about it. Laughter is involuntary and infectious. It starts in the cradle, well before the development of speech, but this innate behaviour blossoms into something that can bring a whole room into uproar. It is found in all cultures and when heard it is recognisable across boundaries of language. All these characteristics strongly suggest that laughter is hard-wired into the human psyche, which immediately conjures the favourite question of every evolutionary biologist: what good is it? Answering that question throws new light on the subject of humour generally and Jewish humour in particular.
Jonathan Silvertown is Professor of Evolutionary Ecology in the Institute of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Edinburgh. In addition to numerous research publications, Jonathan has published 4 popular science books on evolutionary topics. The most recent is Dinner with Darwin: Food, Drink and Evolution, published by Chicago University Press in 2017. It has been translated into 8 languages. Comedy of Errors is forthcoming. www.jonathansilvertown.com; Twitter: @JWSilvertown.
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