Behavior: Killing Laughter

"There seems to be no lengths to which humorless people will not go to analyze humor," said Robert Benchley. If the 180 behavioral scientists who last week attended the world's first International Symposium on Humor at the University of Wales had listened closely, they might have heard a sigh from Benchley's grave. TIME London Correspondent Christopher Byron attended the three-day meeting and sent this report:

Sociologist Gary Fine of the University of Minnesota set the tone with his lecture "Humor in situ: the Role of Humor in Small-Group Cultures." As he finished, an American...