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Thoughts on Ticklish Apes and the Evolution of Laughter


Robert Provine, professor of psychology, was quoted in media across the globe recently regarding a new study on the evolution of laughter in apes.

Provine, an expert on and an international expert on the neuroscience of laughter, yawning and other contagious behaviors, has long studied the distinctive, panting laughter made by apes and other primates when they are tickled.

He was quoted in print and online media across the US and Europe regarding a new study led by Marina Davila Ross, a primatologist at the University of Portsmouth, UK. Davila Ross and her colleagues tickled juvenile apes and human babies, and recorded the sounds produced. The study concluded that the similar sound patterns due to ticklish laughing in humans and apes are likely based on a common ancestor that lived 10 to 16 million years ago.

"I think that it's about time we get out there, start tickling the dogs and the cats, and the pigs, the rats, as well as the chimpanzees," Provine said in a National Public Radio feature on the research. "I think we'll learn a lot about what we have in common, as well as our differences."

Provine’s thoughts on the study were featured in hundreds of media articles and broadcasts, including, NPR’s "All Things Considered,” the Associated Press, Nature, New Scientist, AAAS Science Now, The Guardian (UK) and Wired.

Posted: June 29, 2009, 12:00 PM