Robert Provine, Psychology, in Time

On November 19, an article published in Time examined laughter and if it really has any health benefits. Psychology Research Professor/Professor Emeritus Robert Provine was interviewed for the article and commented on the complexity of laughter’s health benefits. Below is an excerpt from the article:

Robert Provine

Provine calls himself a “reserved optimist” when it comes to laughter’s health-bolstering properties. “One of the challenges of studying laughter is that there are so many things that trigger it,” Provine explains. For example, you’re 30 times more likely to laugh around other people than when you are by yourself, he says. Social relationships and companionship have been tied to numerous health benefits. And so the social component of laughter may play a big part in its healthful attributes, Provine adds.

Here’s why that matters: If you’re going to tell people they should laugh to improve their health, there may be a big difference between guffawing on your own without provocation, watching a funny YouTube clip or meeting up with friends who make you laugh, Provine says.

“That doesn’t mean the benefits aren’t real,” he adds. “But it may not be accurate to credit laughter alone with all these superpowers.”

To read the complete article, click here.

Robert Provine, Psychology, in Vox and on

In an article published October 31 on, Psychology Professor Robert Provine was quoted extensively about his research on hiccups and the evolution of behavior. He discussed how there’s little scientific knowledge about hiccups and how they are difficult to study.

Robert Provine

“We still don’t know what hiccups do, and our cure for them hasn’t improved since Plato,” said Provine. “You can’t just go into the lab and ask someone to hiccup for you.”

Provine also discussed holding breath as a possible cure for intractable hiccups. “You’re blocking the motor pattern as well as leading to a buildup of carbon dioxide,” he said.

In an article published on discussing a recent episode of “The Tonight Show” in which Bradley Cooper and Jimmy Fallon couldn’t control their laughter throughout a ten-minute interview, Provine was quoted from a 2010 interview he participated in with NBC News.

“All laughter is unconscious,” he said. “You do not choose to laugh the way you choose to speak.” The article also cites Provine by stating: “And laughter and humor aren’t as closely tied as people might think. Babies laugh without understanding a joke or that knowing that pratfalls are hilarious, according to Provine.”

To read full versions of both articles, click below:
The mysterious science of hiccups: Why we get them and how to stop them (Vox)
This is why Jimmy Fallon and Bradley Cooper couldn’t stop giggling (

Arielle Dolegui ’13 and Kim Casimbon ’14, Psychology, to Present at USG’s BioMedical Sciences Day

Kim Casimbon ’14 and Arielle Dolegui ’13, psychology, will present at the Universities at Shady Grove’s 6th Annual BioMedical Science Day: Into the Future-Research to Reality on Thursday, November 20, 2014 at The Universities at Shady Grove in Rockville, MD. This event is presented by USG’s Committee on Collaboration, Interprofessional and Interdisciplinary Education Strategies.

Psychology Department Opens New Mental Health Clinic on South Campus

UMBC’s Department of Psychology is opening a new mental health clinic at the Psychology Training, Research, and Services Center on September 15, 2014. The clinic provides evidence-based treatment for a variety of behavioral health issues, including individual and group therapy and consultation for anxiety, depression, substance use, health challenges, marital and family issues, and other types of emotional adjustment problems. The clinic is open limited hours during the week and provides referrals for patients requiring medication management or 24-hour crisis care as we are unable to serve those needs in the clinic. Fees are on a sliding scale and designed to make treatment affordable.

The clinic is a teaching facility operated by the UMBC Psychology Department that provides training for UMBC graduate students pursuing a PhD in Clinical Psychology. UMBC’s Clinical Psychology training program emphasizes the importance of science in clinical practice. Consistent with this approach, clinic activities are science-informed. Director Dr. Rebecca Schacht manages the clinic in consultation with Psychology Department clinical faculty. Dr. Schacht and other licensed psychologists on the faculty and in the community provide close supervision of graduate students, who provide direct services to patients in the clinic.

The Clinic is housed in the Psychology Training, Research, and Services Center (PTRSC) at UMBC’s South Campus Research and Technology Park on South Rolling Road.

For more information and to be screened for eligibility, please call us at 410-455-5530.

Shawn Bediako, Psychology, Receives 2014 Champion Award from the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America

Psychology Associate Professor Shawn Bediako has received the 2014 “Champion Award” from the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America (SCDAA). The prestigious award is given annually to individuals who have made a significant impact in the sickle cell community.

Shawn Bediako

Bediako has done extensive research on sickle cell disease, including race and social attitudes and optimism and perceived stress. In addition to his research, Bediako is also engaged in several community-based projects and was selected in 2008 by Governor Martin O’Malley to serve on the Statewide Steering Committee on Comprehensive Services for Adults with Sickle Cell Disease, a committee that he has chaired since 2010.

Bediako will be honored in October for his dedication to sickle cell disease during the SCDAA’s Annual Convention in Baltimore. Past recipients of the Champion Award include: Clarice Reid, MD, Marilyn Gaston, MD, Congressman Danny Davis (IL), Elliott Vichinsky, Carlton Haywood, PhD, Hertz Nazaire and actor Sidney Poitier.

Robert Provine, Psychology, in BBC Future

As Psychology Professor Robert Provine puts it, “yawning may have the dubious distinction of being the least understood, common human behavior.” A recent in depth story published in BBC Future attempts to answer the baffling question of why we yawn, and Provine, one of the leading experts in the field and author of Curious Behavior: Yawning, Laughing, Hiccupping, and Beyond, is quoted extensively in the story.

Robert Provine

In the article, Provine discusses how contagious yawning is: “Around 50% of people who observe a yawn will yawn in response,” Provine said. “It is so contagious that anything associated with it will trigger one…seeing or hearing another person, or even reading about yawning.” He also discussed how audiences frequently yawn as he is giving presentations: “It makes a very effective lecture,” he said. “You talk and then the audience starts yawning. And then you can ask people to experiment on their yawns – like closing the lips, or inhaling through clenched teeth, or trying to yawn with the nose pinched closed.”

To read the full article in BBC Future titled, “One of science’s most baffling questions? Why we yawn,” click here.

Robert Provine, Psychology, in New York Magazine

Can just talking and reading about bedbugs make you feel itchy? That’s a question New York Magazine set out to find the answer to in a recent post on its “Science of Us” blog. The author asked Psychology Professor Robert Provine the question and this was his response:

Robert ProvineItching and scratching, like yawning, laughing, coughing, and vomiting, is contagious. Simply seeing someone scratching is enough to trigger your own bout of clawing, in a vain effort to rid yourself of pests, real or imagined. You don’t need to actually be bitten by a bedbug, louse, or flea — simply seeing their image, thinking about them, or reading about them — as you are doing now — may trigger a seesaw bout of itching (the stimulus), and scratching (the response).

This hair-trigger, contagiousness and hyper sensitivity to itchy stimuli makes sense. Your neighbor’s pest may jump ship and infect you. Better start scratching, just in case. Unfortunately, scratching causes more itching, locking you into an escalating cycle of itch and scratch.

Provine is author of Curious Behavior: Yawning, Laughing, Hiccuping, and Beyond. To read the full blog post in New York Magazine, click here