SCIENTISTS investigating the psychology of laughter picked the world's funniest joke yesterday.
"The response has been enormous, with over 10,000 jokes submitted and more than 100,000 people from over 70 countries rating them," commented Dr Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire, who devised 'Laughlab'.
A joke about Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson submitted by a Blackpool man emerged overall winner, with a top rating from 47pc of those taking part.
Dr Wiseman said data collection will continue until the March 2002 second phase. In the meantime people were challenged to submit a funnier joke.
The experiment identified the worst jokes and discovered what men, women and people of different nationalities find funny. One surprising result was that out of 11 nationalities, Germans rated more jokes "very funny" than anyone else.
Canada was bottom of the list and Britain seventh.
Men and women favour different types of jokes. Top jokes for males involve aggression, putting women down and sexual innuendo. In contrast, females prefer jokes involving word play.
"These findings reflect fundamental differences," said Dr Wiseman. "Males use humour to appear superior to others. Women are more linguistically skilled and prefer word puns."
The experiment was devised with the British Association for the Advancement of Science in a government initiative to raise awareness of science among young people.
A website (www.laughlab.co.uk) allows people submit jokes and rate those submitted by others on a five-point 'smileometer' scale. Declared Sue Hordijenko of the BAAS: "Laugh Lab looks set to be the most far-reaching psychology experiment ever."
( Daily Telegraph, London)
Did you hear the one about ... the top jokes
Top British joke
Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson go camping, and pitch their tent under the stars. During the night, Holmes wakes his companion and says: "Watson, look up at the stars, and tell me what you deduce."
Watson says: "I see millions of stars, and even if a few of those have planets, it's quite likely there are some planets like Earth, and if there are few planets like Earth out there, there might also be life."
Holmes replies: "Watson, you idiot. Somebody stole our tent."
Top joke among British men
A guy walks into a psychiatrist's office wearing only clingfilm underpants. The psychiatrist says: "Well, I can clearly see you're nuts."
Top joke among British women
A man walks into a bar with a piece of tarmac under his arm. He says to the barman: "A pint for me, and one for the road."
Worst British joke
Why are chickens considered good employees? Because they work around the cluck.