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Science deconstructs humor: What makes some things funny?

Stashed in: Philosophy, humor, comedy, Psychology!, Psychology, Hilarity, Laugh!, Freud, Warped is subjective

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To make predictions on how our funny materials will be perceived by study subjects, we also turn to a growing body of humor theories that speculate on why and when certain situations are considered funny. From ancient Greece to today, many thinkers from around the world have yearned to understand what makes us laugh. Whether their reasons for studying humor were strategic (like some of Plato’s thoughts on using humor to manipulate people’s political views) or simply inquisitive, their insights have been crucial to the development of humor research today. 

Take the following video as an example of a funny stimulus one might use in humor research:

If it bends, it's funny. If it breaks, it's not.

It's funny you didn't call the stash Funny. Or Humor. Or Comedy.

Reminds me of a quote...

"Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog; few people are interested and the frog dies of it." - E. B. White

Also, that guy in the video is either very brave, or one taco short of an enchilada dinner. 

That EB White quote is good.

And there's a fine line between bravery and being short a taco.

Heh heh. That's a good article. 

I'll take your word for it... :)

I like the philosophy:

We might begin by asking what makes anything funny. Historically, there have been three major philosophical theories about laughter. 

  • The superiority theory says that we laugh when we feel “sudden glory,” as Thomas Hobbes put it – a sudden sense of superiority over a person, especially someone to whom we ordinarily feel inferior. Cases of slapstick humor, such as the pie-in-the-face or someone slipping on a banana peel, fall into this category.

  • Kant and Schopenhauer argued on behalf of the incongruity theory, which says we laugh at the juxtaposition of things that don’t ordinarily go together, such as a talking dog or a bearded woman. 

  • And relief theorists like Spencer and Freud maintain that laughter is how we relieve nervous tension regarding subjects or situations that are socially taboo or inappropriate. This explains the popular appeal of jokes based on sex, ethnicity and religion.

But must we regard these theories as mutually exclusive? I suspect they are compatible explanations for different contexts of humor.

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