Robert Provine, Psychology, on Australian National Radio

Robert ProvinePsychology Research Professor and Professor Emeritus Robert Provine was recently interviewed by Radio National (RN) in Australia about his research on yawning, sneezing, and hiccuping. Provine’s interview appeared on the RN program “The Body Sphere” and the title of the segment was “Breathing Through Pain.”

“One of the most striking things about contagious yawning is that it reminds us that we are not a conscious being with total voluntary control of our behavior. When you see someone else yawn, you don’t decide, I’m going to do what that person over there just did. We simply do it,” Provine said during the program. “When we yawn, and when we hear other people yawning, we’re synchronizing our behavior with other members of the group,” he added.

To listen to the full RN segment, click here.

Carlo DiClemente, Psychology, in the Baltimore Sun

In the wake of three hit-and-run accidents in the Baltimore region, the Baltimore Sun recently published an article addressing the question of what leads someone to flee an accident where another person may have suffered harm?

Carlo DiClemente

Psychology professor Carlo DiClemente was quoted in the article and discussed how alcohol, a factor in about 30 percent of traffic fatalities nationally, can amplify emotions of fear, shame, and guilt which overwhelm self-control.

“Rational decision-making is clearly difficult in an intoxicated state, particularly as blood-alcohol levels increase,” said DiClemente. “Fear and escape motivations kick in and, without good executive functioning, make flight more probable.”

DiClemente, who researches addictive behavior, was recently appointed to the National Advisory Council on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The council advises and makes recommendations to the U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) secretary, and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) director on research program and policy matters in the field of alcohol abuse and alcoholism. For more information, click here.

To read the full article in the Baltimore Sun, click here.

Robert Provine, Psychology, Responds to EDGE Annual Question

Each year, poses an annual question to leading scientists, philosophers, and artists to tackle some of the world’s most complex issues. The responses are featured as a collection of online essays that is later published as part of a high-profile and top-selling series of books for a general audience, and the annual event draws global news coverage.

Robert ProvineAs he has for all ten of EDGE’s events, Psychology Research Professor and Professor Emeritus Robert Provine contributed to this year’s question: “What do you think about machines that think?” In his response titled “Irrational Machines and Humans,” Provine wrote that humans should not worry about future characteristics of robots and their ability to spur a future clash with their creators.

“Humans will prevail, in part through primal, often disreputable qualities that are more associated with our downfall than salvation. Cunning, deception, revenge, suspicion, and unpredictability, befuddle less flexible and imaginative entities. Intellect isn’t everything, and the irrational is not necessarily maladaptive,” wrote Provine.

He added: “There is no indication that we will have a problem keeping our machines on a leash, even if they misbehave. We are far from building teams of swaggering, unpredictable, Machiavellian robots with an attitude problem and urge to reproduce.”

To read Provine’s complete response, along with other responses from founders of AI and robotics, Nobelists, and many others, click here. For more information on Provine’s responses to the EDGE question in previous years, click here.

On Sunday, February 1, Provine is contributing to an event at Baltimore’s American Visionary Art Museum titled “The Human Guide to Our Creative Brain.” For more information, click here.

Carlo DiClemente, Psychology, Appointed to National Advisory Council on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

Carlo DiClementePsychology Professor Carlo DiClemente has been appointed to the National Advisory Council on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The council advises and makes recommendations to the U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) secretary, and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) director on research program and policy matters in the field of alcohol abuse and alcoholism.

The council consists of 15 members appointed by the HHS secretary who are leaders in scientific disciplines relevant to NIAAA activities, including public health, behavioral and social sciences, public policy, law, health policy, economics, and management.

DiClemente’s research focuses on smoking cessation, motivation and stages of change for a variety of health behaviors, understanding the mechanism of change in alcohol and substance abuse, and Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) training in medical residency programs.

Last year, DiClemente received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Addictive Behaviors Special Interest Group (AB-SIG) of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT). To learn more, click here.

The National Advisory Council on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism appointment is a four-year term. To learn more about the council, click here.

Robert Provine, Psychology, in Mashable

Robert Provine“Although our laughter may be as distinctive as our speech, laughter is not infinitely variable. If we all laughed differently, we could not identify a vocalization as laughter,” said Psychology Research Professor and Professor Emeritus Robert Provine in a recent Mashable article.

The article, published December 1, examines why people have different laughs. Provine, who is author of Curious Behavior: Yawning, Laughing, Hiccuping and Beyond, said “most classical laughs have a short, harmonic blast (‘ha’) of about one-fifteenth of a second duration, that repeats every one-fifth of a second. It’s hard to laugh in any other way. Try it. The result doesn’t sound very much like a laugh — at least not a convincing one.”

He adds, “linguists, psychologists and philosophers often have trouble dealing with such primal vocalizations, treating laughter as if it’s speech. Laughter — and crying — have more in common with the barking of a dog than speech.”

To read the full article titled “Why do people have different laughs?” click here.

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 (