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It's funny.  Laugh. Science Idle

The Science of Humor 344

Hugh Pickens writes "The sense of humor is a ubiquitous human trait, yet rare or non-existent in the rest of the animal kingdom. But why do humans have a sense of humor in the first place? Cognitive scientist (and former programmer) Matthew Hurley says humor (or mirth, in research-speak) is intimately linked to thinking and is a critical task in human cognition because a sense of humor keeps our brains alert for the gaps between our quick-fire assumptions and reality. 'We think the pleasure of humor, the emotion of mirth, is the brain's reward for discovering its mistaken inferences,' says Hurley, co-author of Inside Jokes: Using Humor to Reverse-Engineer the Mind. With humor, the brain doesn't just discover a false inference — it almost simultaneously recovers and corrects itself. For example, read the gag that's been voted the funniest joke in the world by American men. So why is this joke funny? Because it is misleading, containing a small, faulty assumption that opens the door to a costly mistake. Humor is 'when you catch yourself in an error, like looking for the glasses that happen to be on the top of your head. You've made an assumption about the state of the world, and you're behaving based on that assumption, but that assumption doesn't hold at all, and you get a little chuckle.'"
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The Science of Humor

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 27, 2011 @09:31AM (#38181402)

    Big Brother is Watching You.

  • The real joke (Score:5, Insightful)

    by oldhack ( 1037484 ) on Sunday November 27, 2011 @09:48AM (#38181484)
    The real joke in "the funniest joke" is the starting line:

    The world's funniest joke has been revealed after a year-long search by scientists.

  • by Rosy At Random ( 820255 ) on Sunday November 27, 2011 @09:50AM (#38181494) Homepage

    This makes sense in the context of something I've noticed: the more extreme and deeply-held your views, the less likely you are to have a functioning sense of humour. In particular, hard-core religious people seem to have none whatsoever. If your dogma is so entrenched and rigid, then you aren't going to make self-correction and ambiguity a strong part of your mental tool-kit.

    Never trust someone without a sense of humour, kids.

    (Of course, too much can be a bad thing, too, at least insofar as maniacal giggling whilst ripping your still-living victims organs out can be considered humorous...)

  • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 ) on Sunday November 27, 2011 @09:52AM (#38181504)
    What, did Randall run over your dog or something? All you do is sound like you have a grudge. I really do pity you if you have this much vitriol against people just because they read a webcomic because it entertains them. And as for the "ancient jokes", did you ever think that maybe people find them funny because they can relate to them?
  • by clintp ( 5169 ) on Sunday November 27, 2011 @10:29AM (#38181670)

    The stereotype this plays on is "hunters are stupid rednecks who shoot first and think later". [...] Hunters would probably find the joke less funny but probably the "researchers" didn't define a category for them, so it didn't how up on their stats...

    Those stupid redneck hunters often have an enormous ability to laugh at themselves that shouldn't be discounted. I haven't hunted in a while (but my NRA membership is still current) and I found the joke quite funny.

  • by clintp ( 5169 ) on Sunday November 27, 2011 @10:32AM (#38181682)

    If it bends its funny. If it breaks its not funny..

    Baloney. The breaking is funny too, if it's broken well.

    Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die. -- Mel Brooks

  • by dak664 ( 1992350 ) on Sunday November 27, 2011 @10:48AM (#38181764) Journal

    That fits with my view that laughter is an interrupted defense mechanism. Ideologues have no other running tasks to interrupt the foreground process.

  • by JustOK ( 667959 ) on Sunday November 27, 2011 @11:39AM (#38182052) Journal

    and laughing

  • by angel'o'sphere ( 80593 ) on Sunday November 27, 2011 @11:56AM (#38182138) Journal

    It is likely hard to test how humorous animals are as their mimic is hard to rate or nto at all. E.g. a raven who has just stolen the food of another raven, hiding behind a bush and watching the other raven upset jumping around the hiding place. If you see how the watching raven is behaving you get easy the impression he is laughing his ass off. However without a brain scan we can not "proof" this (providing we can figure where the humour center / laughing center in bird brain is).

    I mean every few years we get surprised by some research that says: figured that a lizard can learn under wich cup the reward is, and that every mistake of choosing the cup leads to a longer waiting time for the next "test + reward". Doh, so an animal with a brain of the size of to rice corns can learn.

    With birds, especially doves, they made experiments about counting and simple arithmetic. You have two bowls with a few grains. And a switch that can be activated with the peak of the bird. The test is to let the bird peek on that switch as often as the sum of the two bowls of grains are. The birds learned that pretty fast. One particular case is this: the dove stopped in front of the switch. It had figured it either has miscounted or miscalculated. So it went back to the bowls (now empty) and repeated the pickings in each bowl and "calculated/counted" again. Then it activated the switch successful.

    Or you now about this parrot, where a researcher taught a few hundred words? The parrot started to correct other parrots when they practiced "speech". He could understand and make simple english sentences, like "I want to go into the garden", "Give me apple".

    My assumption is that most live is able to learn, a smaller amount is "intelligent" to a certain level, and a smaller part is so intelligent that it also has humour. The question is more: why is everyone neglecting this and assuming that we humans are unique?

    Another story: a cat is proudly prancing on the top of a roof. It slipped and avalanched down the roof into the roof gutter/rain pipe. After it landed it hid in the gutter for a moment (5 - 6 seconds) then it carefully stuck its head out and watched around: "did someone see me?" was written on her forehead. When she was sure no one saw her she continued to "prance" along the rain pipe ... if she had no humour, how can she be felt ashamed of falling down the roof?

  • Re:Two things (Score:5, Insightful)

    by uglyMood ( 322284 ) <> on Sunday November 27, 2011 @01:51PM (#38182776) Homepage
    I would say that my cat's schtick of frantically crying and scratching at the door to be let in and then casually sauntering away when I open it would qualify. She usually does this at least three times before consenting to enter, and seems quite amused by the whole thing.
  • by wisebabo ( 638845 ) on Sunday November 27, 2011 @04:49PM (#38183886) Journal

    According to the article the world's funniest joke is 102 words long. Also, it is claimed that jokes 103 words long are the "funniest" length. Finally jokes with the word "duck" in them also are funnier.

    Therefore change "there were two hunters..." to:

    "there were two DUCK hunters..."

    (Not only have you now included the word "duck" but you've know made the joke the optimal length! Did I really have to explain that?)

  • Re:Two things (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rduke15 ( 721841 ) <rduke15&gmail,com> on Sunday November 27, 2011 @06:37PM (#38184642)

    Q: Two goldfish are in a tank.
    A: One says, "Do you know how to drive this thing?"

    Well, I understood the joke differently. I thought the fish was wondering how to drive the fish tank, and found that funny. Never thought of a military tank.

    Maybe that is because I'm from Europe, and according to the article, we have a penchant for surreal jokes?

God help those who do not help themselves. -- Wilson Mizner