Tag Archives: age

The funniest whoopee cushion sound

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Every two years, the charity Comic Relief runs the Red Nose Day telethon. It also sells merchandise, and in 2009 this included whoopee cushions. As my contribution to the comic fundraising that year, I ran a psychoacoustic experiment to find the funniest whoopee cushion sound. I’m having to retire the website that hosted the experiment because the web technologies I used have become obsolete. The idea of this blog is to archive the vital scientific discoveries I made, for posterity.

Who took part

Over six years, the experiment collected 400,000 ratings of whoopee cushion sounds from about 68,000 participants. The analysis below is for the first 200,000 ratings. What participants had to do was to listen to a whoopee cushion sound and rate it on a scale from 1 to 6 for how funny they found it. Each participant rated up to six sounds.

Smiley scale

Smiley scale

What was found

Longer Whoopee Cushion Sounds Are funnier

The funniest sound was extremely long (7 seconds). So it is better to sit down on a whoopee slowly for maximum effect. The sounds below illustrate this, with short, medium and long examples:

I have included the R2 value on the graph of the results below, because this was a serious science experiment with proper statistical analysis.

Graph of mirth vs length of whoopee cushion sound. Best fit line also shown in red.

Mirth vs length of whoopee cushion sound for the 20 audio samples tested. Best fit line also shown in red. Error bars are 95% confidence intervals.

Sounds with a whinny quality were funnier

8 out of the 11 most funny sounds had some whinny quality to them. Here is an example:

A t-test confirmed that whinny sounds were rated funnier by comparing the average score of whinny sounds with all others. (t=4.20, df = 16, p<0.001, r = 0.72). Note, this is a very large effect size.

The sounds got funnier the more you heard

There is a standard rule of three in comedy, but as the graph below shows, things just kept getting funnier over the six sounds auditioned.

Graph of how funny vs number heard with equation for best fit line also shown

How funny a sound was vs number heard. Equation for best fit line also shown

Effect of age

Children found whoopee sounds funnier than adults, especially those under the age of ten.

How funny vs age graph

How funny vs age

And finally …

Thank you for everyone who took part in the experiment. We made a series of videos at the end of the experiment to say thank you for those who took part. The most popular of these asked the question, Does whoopee cushion size matter?

Whoopee Sounds

Download 20 whoopee sounds in MP3 format soundsfunny.zip