Re: laughter and brain shocks

Anders Sandberg (
14 Oct 1999 21:44:01 +0200

"Rob Harris" <> writes:

> >> So....what was Dr. George asking when he said "Are you being forced to
> >> laugh..."?
> >He was likely trying to see if the laughter was just due to the
> >laughter reflex or due to positive stimulation of the limbic
> >system. A big deal of difference.
> I see what you're saying, but if this is so, then which answer would point
> to which conclusion, and why? What is or is not being FORCED to laugh?

Suppose you felt your diaphragm and throat move in such a way that the resulting sound sounded like laughter, but you did not experience the least happiness (a bit like people who can suddenly find themselves crying without having any affection). In that case it would seem likely just the motoric parts of expressing happiness were active, and upstream happiness functions (like a positive mood) not involved. Of course, there is a certain amount of feedback so being forced to laugh for a while might make you happier, but at least initially there ought to be a noticeable difference which would help delineate how the happiness system works.

> Choosing to laugh? You mention either a reflex or positive stimulation of
> the (entire?) limbic which one would produce a conscious choice
> to laugh or not in the subject? Neither, that's which.....and this is the
> source of the suspicion I give below.

Do you usually choose to laugh? Of course, the devil lurks in the details of "you" and "choose" - these are high-level descriptions of what is going on, and have little to do with reality.

> >> There is no "force", this
> >> is the way the mind works. I think the problem may rest with the common
> >> misconception of "free will" meaning that a human spirit (or whatever) is
> >> completely responsible for the self-definition of it's motivations,
> >> impulses, or "will".
> >Sure. But I think you make a mistake by attributing this view to
> >Dr. Mark George, of whose views we actually know nothing.
> Of course, my speculation was just that - a speculation..."I think the
> problem MAY rest...."
> You've got to admit, the view I described is very, very common, even in
> scientists whose field of specialism comes very close to the critical points
> mentioned....

My experience is that it is common, but less common among people involved in neuroscience. However, many seem to cloak themselves in it when speaking with the public, since the emerging truth (a mind consisting of highly interactive parts with no center and no correspondence to the classic ideas) is so hard to swallow for many.

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y