Laughing scale

By Murray Bourne, 24 Feb 2008

Japanese scientists have developed a "laughometer" scale, according to this translation from Pink Tentacle:

The laughter measurement system, which the [Kansai University] researchers say will help scientists conduct more detailed research into the physiological effects of laughter on the immune system, relies on a series of electrode sensors that monitor the tiny amounts of bioelectricity generated by certain muscles that flex when you chuckle. The sensors, which attach to a person’s cheeks, chest and abdomen, take 3,000 measurements per second. Sensor data is relayed to a computer, where it is analyzed by special software that determines the nature of the laugh and assigns a numerical score based on the quantity.

The laughter quantity is expressed in terms of “aH” — a unit of measurement developed by the research team. According to chief researcher Yoji Kimura, a Kansai University professor, 1 second of explosive laughter amounts to 5 aH.

I’m wondering if the scale is logarithmic. It probably needs to be, since our reactions to events have a large range from discomfort (from embarrassment) through glee at others’ misfortunes (the sadists) and on to uncontrollable laughter often manifested by teenage girls (and boys when someone breaks wind in a serious meeting).

Devotees of laughter therapy. [Image source: Sakthi Foundation, no longer available.]

The system can tell the difference between genuine amusement and a polite laugh (something the Japanese have perfected over centuries).

According to Kimura, the diaphragm does not vibrate significantly when a person pretends to laugh, even when the person’s voice and facial expression appear genuine. On the other hand, when one laughs at something they truly find funny, the diaphragm generates 2 to 5 distinct vibrational waves per second.

To show that it works...

At Kansai University on February 21, the researchers publicly demonstrated the system by measuring the laughter of a 30-something-year-old woman and her 5-year-old daughter as they watched a performance by Yoshimoto comedians. The mother, who apparently found no humor in the comedy routine, experienced only slightly more than 0 aH of laughter, while her amused daughter experienced a hearty 42 aH.

I’m looking forward to the release of Kimura’s research paper in English.

See the 4 Comments below.

4 Comments on “Laughing scale”

  1. Johan de Nijs says:

    Yes, not by scientific means, but from experience I know that healthy laughter has a positive healing effect on one's body. Over against depression that affect once health negatively. Therefore, looking not at he optimistic side of life as much as the humoristic side of life can add years to one's life.

    I am 83 and people think that I am in my early seventies. Is that not to laugh about?

  2. Murray says:

    Hi Johan and thanks for your comment.

    Really great to see an 83-year old enjoying life and maintaining his sense of humour.

    Clearly you think young, as well.

  3. Michael says:

    Hi, could you post a link or something if the research paper does come out in English? It sounds fantastic.

    I probably scored 7 aH just reading about the units.

  4. Murray says:

    Sure, Michael - I will.

    I found some more background on the researcher (link no longer available) from the Daily Yomiuri:

    A turning point came when he was 30 and working as an assistant to a university professor. Kimura says he went mushroom picking on a mountainside, and even though some of them looked suspicious, he cooked them in a pot and ate them with some friends. A little while later, he felt a constant urge to laugh, and did so for the next few hours.

    "Laughing is like rebooting a computer. Laughing so much then changed my attitude toward life," he says.

    The incident inspired Kimura to devote his life to solving the mystery of laughter. Laughing is said to be healthy, and Kimura has been trying to prove its effect. He says many people do not understand what he is trying to do, but that his wife has been very supportive.

    Makes sense to me...

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