Laughter in the Workplace Can Boost Productivity—and Make You Seem More Competent

iStock.com/sturti
iStock.com/sturti

In case you needed further proof that laughter is good for you, author and former corporate sales executive Betty-Ann Heggie writes in the Harvard Business Review that science supports laughter in the presence of company—coworkers included. Cracking jokes may improve your performance at work and make you better-liked by colleagues, according to researchers.

One experiment in 2016 found that employees who had chuckled at a comedy video clip were 10 percent more productive than coworkers who hadn’t. Productivity, in this case, was measured by the number of addition problems they could correctly solve in 10 minutes in a lab setting. “The broad message from the literature on the link between happiness and productivity is that both positive and negative emotions have a potentially powerful economic effect,” University of Bristol researcher Eugenio Proto writes.

Some companies have even started hiring humor coaches to relieve stress at work and encourage a collaborative environment, according to a 2017 Singapore Management University study spotted by MarketWatch.

Not only could laughing at work help you become a better worker bee, but it may even make you seem more competent, suggests a 2016 study titled “Risky Business: When Humor Increases and Decreases Status” [PDF]. Harvard Business School professor Alison Wood Brooks and two other researchers conducted eight experiments and concluded that the successful use of humor can actually increase an employee’s perceived status. In one experiment, presenters who made jokes were “perceived as more competent, more confident, and higher in status,” Brooks wrote.

Cracking inappropriate jokes (think Michael Scott from The Office) can harm status, but on the other hand, jokes that are bad but appropriate (think dad jokes) may still help the speaker come off as confident.

So go ahead, make a corny quip or let out a laugh. It might be exactly what your office needs.

[h/t Harvard Business Review]

Shocker: This Electric Eel Delivers More Voltage Than Any Creature on Earth

stacey_newman/iStock via Getty Images
stacey_newman/iStock via Getty Images

Eels are proving to be more slippery than previously believed. A newly identified species of these skinny fish (yes, eels are really fish) delivers more electric voltage than any other creature on the planet.

All species in their taxonomic order (Gymnotiformes) are capable of producing a modest electrical field to help them navigate, a perk that compensates for their poor vision. But electric eels (in the genus Electrophorus) pack a far more potent punch. They bear three organs full of cells that can produce electricity on demand. The cells act as a defense mechanism and can effectively taser prey into submission.

In a study published in Nature Communications, researchers collected more than 100 electric eels in the Amazon region and analyzed their DNA, voltage, and habitat. To their surprise, they found that the single known species of electric eel, Electrophorus electricus, was actually three distinct species. They gave the two new ones the very heavy metal names of E. varii and E. voltai. The latter (named for Alessandro Volta, who invented the electric battery) produced the strongest shock: 860 volts, topping the previous record of 650 volts.

Why the varying strength? The researchers suggested that some eels occupy water with low salt content, and therefore reduced conductivity. A stronger charge may be needed to deliver an effective jolt.

While those numbers sound formidable, their low current means a shock wouldn’t necessarily be harmful to a human. Voltage is the measure of pressure of the flow of electrons; current, or amperage, is the volume of electrons. Eels have high voltage but low current; household power outlets have lower voltage but more current and can be deadly. Eels might startle you with a shock, but it won't be fatal.

If you should find yourself in a school of electric eels bent on subduing you, however, the shocks could result in brief incapacitation that could lead to drowning or an aggravation of an existing heart condition. The study authors hope to eventually film a coordinated eel attack on (non-human) prey.

The discovery of two new species was “quite literally shocking,” lead author Carlos David de Santana told The New York Times.

[h/t Phys.org]

Does the Full Moon Really Make People Act Crazy?

iStock.com/voraorn
iStock.com/voraorn

Along with Mercury in retrograde, the full moon is a pretty popular scapegoat for bad luck and bizarre behavior. Encounter someone acting strangely? Blame it on the lunar phases! It's said that crime rates increase and emergency rooms are much busier during the full moon (though a 2004 study debunked this claim). Plus, there's that whole werewolf thing. Why would this be? The reasoning is that the moon, which affects the ocean's tides, probably exerts a similar effect on us, because the human body is made mostly of water.

This belief that the moon influences behavior is so widely held—reportedly, even 80 percent of nurses and 64 percent of doctors think it's true, according to a 1987 paper published in the Journal of Emergency Medicine [PDF]—that in 2012 a team of researchers at Université Laval's School of Psychology in Canada decided to find out if mental illness and the phases of the moon are linked [PDF].

To test the theory, the researchers evaluated 771 patients who visited emergency rooms at two hospitals in Montreal between March 2005 and April 2008. The patients chosen complained of chest pains, which doctors could not determine a medical cause for the pains. Many of the patients suffered from panic attacks, anxiety and mood disorders, or suicidal thoughts.

When the researchers compared the time of the visits to the phases of the moon, they found that there was no link between the incidence of psychological problems and the four lunar phases, with one exception: in the last lunar quarter, anxiety disorders were 32 percent less frequent. "This may be coincidental or due to factors we did not take into account," Dr. Geneviève Belleville, who directed the team of researchers, said. "But one thing is certain: we observed no full-moon or new-moon effect on psychological problems."

So rest easy (or maybe not): If people seem to act crazy during the full moon, their behavior is likely pretty similar during the rest of the lunar cycle as well.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER