Discusses the psychological aspect of laughter and introduces
several psychology-related articles featured in the 'Psychology Today'
By Robert Epstein Ph.D. published November 1, 2000 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016
His forays into drama notwithstanding--almost always as a shrink,
itseems-Robin Williams is one of the funniest people in the world. I saw
him do an apparently extemporaneous stand-up routine years ago at Harvard
University, of all places. He was getting an award, behaving himself for
the occasion, when, suddenly, his mouth exploded with a stream of
insults, barbs, innuendoes, and accents of every color and flavor--all
while 1,000 students variously shook, gasped and screamed with laughter.
I could barely breathe, and the jokes (if you can call them that) came
faster than I could decipher them. All the while, doing my thing as a
graduate student in psychology, I was thinking, "How is he doing this to
us? Why am I having these bizarre convulsions? And can I keep from
Finally, some answers. In our feature article, "The Science of
Laughter," Robert Provine, Ph.D., shares the surprising results of his
first-ever large-scale study of laughter--which, it turns out, is pretty
serious stuff, after all. In our continuing effort to leave no neuron
unstimulated, in this issue of PT "cop doc" Alan Benner, Ph.D., takes you
inside the heads of street cops; two distinguished therapists set you
free of psychotherapy; and the world's leading expert on risk lets you
know how likely you are to jump off a cliff--and that's just for
On with the show.
Robert Epstein Ph.D., is editor-in-chief of PSYCHOLOGY TODAY and
host of the magazine's daily radio program, accessible 24 hours a day at
www.psychologytoday.com. He's also University Research Professor at
United States International University and Director Emeritus of the
Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies.