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.
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