Ha Ha Bonk - Humour and Reproductive Success

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Humour and laughter are universal across human cultures, and seemingly have been for thousands of years. While it’s not so clear that animals have a sense of humour, many species at least demonstrate a sense of play (Also, rats laugh when they’re tickled).

So has the universality of humour amongst humans come about through natural selection? If so what evolutionary advantage does humour provide? Is the variety and complexity of humour so conveniently explained by simple evolutionary advantage?

In this session, Ben Hawkes and Les Walton will touch on the psychology, biology and philosophy of humour and laughter, and might even throw in a couple of jokes.

(*Ben, a psychologist, and Les, a radio producer, know a little thing about humour, having written and performed with The Missing, Inc. comedy group, including an almost entirely fictitious account of the life of Charles Darwin, The Beagle Has Landed, performed at Shrewsbury’s very own Darwin Festival and various science and comedy festivals around the country.)

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Ha Ha Bonk - Humour and Reproductive Success

  1. 1. Ha Ha, Bonk: Humour and Reproductive Success Ben Hawkes & Les Walton 1
  2. 2. Humour. What’s that all about then? A question for you: 2
  3. 3. Theories of humour Over 100 theories, including… • Aristotle, Plato, Hobbes: Superiority • Freud: Relief • Defence mechanism • False alarm • Incongruity-resolution • Benign violation 3 27 March, 2014 ben@yacmo.com
  4. 4. Benign violation model 4 Humour Benign Violation Benign violation 27 March, 2014 ben@yacmo.com
  5. 5. Benign violation model 5 Yourself Explosive diarrhoea Not funny 27 March, 2014 ben@yacmo.com
  6. 6. Benign violation model 6 Someone else Explosive diarrhoea Funny 27 March, 2014 ben@yacmo.com
  7. 7. Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die. Mel Brooks
  8. 8. Did humour evolve? And why?
  9. 9. Components of Humour 9 Stimulus Mirth Emotional & psychological Laughter Physical & physiological 27 March, 2014 ben@yacmo.com
  10. 10. Play and laughter in animals • Chimps • Bonobos • Orangutans • Gorillas • Dogs • Rats 10 27 March, 2014 ben@yacmo.com
  11. 11. Back to the theories… • Demonstrating superiority and elevating social status – Raising our own status – Lowering the status of others – Enhancing camaraderie and affiliation • Brain practice • Repression of sexual or aggressive feelings • False alarm model: laughter as a signal • Development from grooming 11 27 March, 2014 ben@yacmo.com
  12. 12. From fleas to tee-hees Stages in the evolution of humour?
  13. 13. 1. Parasites bad. Grooming good. 2. Grooming relatives and mates is good too. 3. But I only groom the ones that matter to me. 4. The important thing about grooming is not the grooming. 5. Don’t need grooming when you ain’t got fur. But let’s keep all the other stuff. 13 27 March, 2014 ben@yacmo.com
  14. 14. Laughter is the best* medicine. *It isn’t. Antibiotics are much better.
  15. 15. Stages of laughter 15 Silent 1 Smirk 2 Smile 3 Grin Voluble 4 Snicker 5 Giggle 6 Chuckle 7 Chortle 8 Laugh Involuntary 9 Cackle 10 Guffaw 11 Howl 12 Shriek Helpless 13 Roar 14 Convulse 15 Die laughing 27 March, 2014 ben@yacmo.com
  16. 16. Positive psychological effects of laughter Reduces • Anxiety • Tension • Stress • Depression • Loneliness Improves • Self-esteem • Hope and energy • Sense of control 16 27 March, 2014 ben@yacmo.com
  17. 17. Positive physiological effects of laughter Reduces • Allergic response • Stress response • Mood disturbance • Muscle tension Improves • Pulmonary function • Weight loss • Disease resistance • Muscle tone • Immune functioning 17 27 March, 2014 ben@yacmo.com
  18. 18. Die, laughing.
  19. 19. Physiological risks of laughter • Seizures • Cataleptic and narcoleptic attacks • Cerebrovascular accidents • Myocardial infarction 19 27 March, 2014 ben@yacmo.com
  20. 20. Personal preference for humour styles
  21. 21. What’s your sense of humour? • Affiliative • Self-enhancing • Aggressive • Self-defeating Find out at http://personality-testing.info/tests/HSQ.php 21 27 March, 2014 ben@yacmo.com
  22. 22. Ha ha, bonk: Is funny sexy?
  23. 23. Ha ha, bonk: Is funny sexy? • Women are more attracted to humorous men. • Men are uninfluenced by women’s ‘humour production’. • Unattractive people are perceived as using humour more. • Men’s humour quality is positively correlated with ratings of their attractiveness. • Men’s humour quantity is negatively correlated with ratings of attractiveness. • For both sexes, humorous individuals were seen as less intelligent and trustworthy but as more socially adept. Bressler (2006) 23 27 March, 2014 ben@yacmo.com
  24. 24. Something to talk about (and stuff we didn’t have time for)
  25. 25. Stuff we didn’t have time for… Gelatophobia • The fear of being laughed at. Witzelsucht • A condition characterised by excessive and inappropriate joking. 25 27 March, 2014 ben@yacmo.com
  26. 26. Something to talk about… • So why do babies laugh? • Is there a universal gag? • Can computers be funny? • How soon is ‘too soon’? 26 27 March, 2014 ben@yacmo.com
  27. 27. Thank you! Let us know if you want a copy of the slides. Or go to www.yacmo.com/humour.pdf Ben & Les

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