NBC News hosts JSC professor


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Professor Gina Mireault

On Jan. 17, JSC Professor of Behavioral Sciences Gina Mireault and her research on infant humor were featured on NBC’s Nightly News.

This is not the first time the Mireault has been in the media, but it is the first time that her work has gained such national visibility.

Some may ask, “Why study baby humor?” And that is a fair question. To that Mireault says, “My goal here is just to expand what we know about babies. That’s it. Especially about how they think, but also to expand what we know about humor perception. Really these studies are looking at humor as a social emotional phenomenon versus a cognitive intellectual phenomenon.”

What does this mean to the average reader? “It’s not about getting the joke. It’s about being with other people,” said Mireault.

Even though she appeared on NBC, which is based in New York City, Mireault only had to travel to the local PBS station to participate in the interview.  The PBS station, located in Colchester, is one of only two studios in Vermont that has the hardware necessary to connect to a national-level service.

Mireault was interviewed by NBC reporter Stephanie Gosk. They spent approximately 30 minutes over a remote feed, Gosk asking questions and Mireault answering. While at the PBS location, Mireault could hear Gosk, but could not see her because the video only flows one way.

Mireault said that while her research is in an obscure area, “It’s really gratifying when you get an email or phone call from an outside source that says I really find what you’re doing interesting and I want to cover it.”

By all rights, The NBC Nightly News did not do Mireault or her research justice.  They took the half hour in-depth interview, which she said consisted of many high level questions, and essentially turned it into a sound bite.  Total air time of the story was just 2 minutes and 14 seconds long.  Of that, Mireault is only featured for 15 seconds.  “It wasn’t that I thought they would have done a longer story, I thought they would have included more about what we had talked about,” said Mireault.

Brevity aside, Mireault said she is honored that they noticed the work she is doing
So what happened to the 15 minutes of fame that Andy Warhol famously predicted everyone would have?  Well, in this case it was edited for time.

The story titled “Babies Understand Your Humor and Want to Joke Too” is posted on the bottom of the JSC homepage at www.jsc.edu.