Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Laugh Lab

Professor Richard Wiseman carried out an internet experiment five years ago to find the world's best gag.

A joke about two US hunters who go into the woods topped the poll after more than 100,000 people around the world cast their vote on 40,000 jokes.

That's from this BBC story about how Wiseman traced the origin of this joke back to a skit from 1951. What interested me was the analysis of the results of Wiseman's experiment at the LaughLab website. Here, for example, is something from country-wise analysis of the kinds of jokes people like.

[Many] European countries, such as France, Denmark and Belgium, liked jokes that were somewhat surreal, such as:

An Alsatian went to a telegram office, took out a blank form and wrote: “Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof.”

The clerk examined the paper and politely told the dog: “There are only nine words here. You could send another ‘Woof’ for the same price.”

“But,” the dog replied, “that would make no sense at all.”

You can get to the award-winning jokes (and to some more analysis) from this summary page. Prof. Wiseman's home page is here. One of his research interests is the psychology of luck. Here's a quick extract from the Guardian profile, reproduced on his site:

Wiseman identified four principles at play among lucky people. They maximise their chance opportunities by having networks of friends and being relaxed enough to be open to different ways of achieving their goals; they are open to intuition and listen to their hunches; they expect to be lucky; they are able to see the positive side of bad fortune and so are better able to deal with it.

If you reckon this is just a load of new age psychobabble, think again - Wiseman has been happy to put his theories to the test. [...]