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snowberry's avatar

Why do some people have no sense of humor?

Asked by snowberry (17667 points ) December 12th, 2013

This person I know is so nice, but she has no idea what humor is. She takes everything so literally, and she never understands the slightest kind of humor. Obviously irony is lost on her as well. Is there a definition for people like this? She comes across as socially awkward. She’s a special ed teacher and it affects her job because she can’t relate to parents or students as well as she could if she understood humor. Can anyone give me some insight? Thanks.

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52 Answers

Katniss's avatar

I work with a kid like that. He’s a sweetheart, but he’s always so serious and takes everything literally. You really have to watch what you say to him. For example, we got in a shipment of Yankee candles, he was unsure of what to do with them. The asst. manager apparently dislikes them and said “ugh, those things are garbage.” We later found the Yankee Candles in a trash bag in the storage room. lol

LuckyGuy's avatar

Some people on the autism spectrum , e.g. Asperger’s, take everything literally. They cannot tell if it is humor or not. Do you know the TV show Big Bang Theory? Sheldon fits into that category someplace.
Just be careful how you word things. Use complete sentences.
For example if I say to you “2 plus 2”. You will say “4”
Do that to someone with Asperger’s and they will likely be confused and say nothing until you say “equals”.
I work with a guy who cannot function unless a unit is added to a number. How fast are we going? “60” He has no idea until I say “miles per hour”. Or if I say “Man! It is cold out today It was 14 this morning.” He is stumped. I must say “degrees F” and then he gets it.

Yesterday we were offered participation in an upcoming test event. I was so excited I practically had a hard on. He said he didn’t care. He just wanted to make it work.
I might describe a food as “delicious”. He calls it “adequate”.
Learn to deal with it. You will be happier – and he will be more satisfied.

Coloma's avatar

May be personality type. I’m an ENTP and we are known for our humor, quick wit and verbosity.
I have an ISTJ friend and she sounds like the person you describe. A “serious” type, not intellectually inclined at all and a very dry sense of humor. She has a heart of gold but the personality of a cardboard box. lol

snowberry's avatar

@Coloma I have a very dry sense of humor. When I tell a joke, it’s dead-pan all the way (I’m really good at it which makes it funnier), and anyone with a sense of humor gets the joke.

josie's avatar

I would keep telling jokes and all that stuff. You may “break through”.

In the meantime, suggest she join Fluther. She will find a few kindred spirits here.

jerv's avatar

@LuckyGuy is correct. Autistic people often come across as humorless.

Some of us can figure out things from context, but not all of us; anything involving words is already pretty far removed from our native language, and not all of us are fluent enough in words to grasp wordplay, or syntax.

Also, reading faces is, at best, difficult, if not impossible. That means that we are generally split between being either gullible, or (like me) assuming people are full of shit.

snowberry's avatar

@jerv She’s interacting with people of all ages all day long…Could an autistic person handle this? Is there something else it could be?

Coloma's avatar

@snowberry Oh, I am sure. The person I speak of though, truly has no sense of humor, does not make jokes, does not get jokes, not just dry, parched. lol

LuckyGuy's avatar

@jerv Thank you for the validation. You know I’m not making it up.

bolwerk's avatar

It could be autism. It could be social anxiety disorder. I doubt it’s schizophrenia because you’d mention other symptoms.

It probably is not personality type (by itself), and there is no valid means to make a diagnosis using MBTI.

jerv's avatar

@snowberry Aspies are not always shy. Maybe awkward, but some of us are quite outgoing. So yes, we can, but yes, that is only one possibility.

snowberry's avatar

It’s awkward for me trying to relate to her, and I’d like to do it better.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@snowberry Congratulations. You have already taken the first step: Asking about it.
Think before you speak. Do not use idioms. Accept that you will not feel comfortable talking to her. She is not doing it to make you miserable. That is not even on her radar screen. She is how she is.

This is a great life lesson for you.
Enjoy that hot Mocha Cappuccino and its luscious aroma.

glacial's avatar

My sister is like this, and she’s not on the spectrum (she does have OCD, though, and is a bit of a nervous wreck). She laughs a lot, but rarely gets the joke – at least not in real life. She has no problem watching a comedy and knowing when to laugh, but in conversation, she often gets upset because she takes everything so literally. It’s awkward, because everyone else in my family has a well-developed sense of irony, including her husband! It drives him up the wall.

ucme's avatar

Breech births, born arse first means you forever put a bummer on things, shame that.

fwizzy's avatar

they have so much sense of humor .3. they just show it in very odd ways~

drhat77's avatar

I use very odd humor at work, and since I’m a physician sometimes people are so in the mindset of taking everything I say seriously (because of the white coat) they completely forget about humor. I’ve made people very confused about it, but once I tell them I was joking they lighten up a bit. It has gotten me in trouble a few times though.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

Some people just. Don’t. Get. It.

Really sad actually.

I’m not obligated to dumb down my humor for the sake of everyone.

Nothing is more satisfying than seeing some people in a group laugh uncontrollably while the others rest look at them in bewilderment.

Excellent tool for choosing friends.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Maybe your humor isn’t funny to her.

KNOWITALL's avatar

It sounds challenging. Try to cnnect with something like a pet or tv show, feel her out then it’ll be better. Patience.

wildpotato's avatar

In psychology this is called concrete thinking, and is also described as existence in the operational mode. It has to do with interference in development of the capacity to engage in symbol formation. Because such individuals have trouble with decoding meaning in what others say, they “play it safe” and respond to symbolic statements such as sarcasm, jokes, and metaphors in a literal way.

While concrete thinking is commonly seen in people with autism, it is by no means limited to this. Any time the capacity for the use of symbols has been impaired, concrete thinking can occur. Psychosis, psychosomatosis, and the borderline position – disorders of perception of and interaction with reality – tend to employ this mode of thought as well.

JLeslie's avatar

I think sometimes people aren’t raised with humor, so it baffles them.

It might be your type of humor he doesn’t find funny. My husband loves British humoUr, while I am more luke warm about it. We both don’t find Saturday Night Live very funny. We both think Big Bang Theory, Seinfeld, Raymond, are hysterical.

Autism spectrum is another possibility as mentioned above.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

We’re all different. Maybe they don’t have a sense of humor, but maybe they have other wonderful qualities.

snowberry's avatar

Apparently it’s not my sense of humor, because other people have mentioned it too.

stanleybmanly's avatar

That’s sort of a conversation stopper- a special ed teacher with no sense of humor. I wonder whether such a condition is an advantage or hindrance to her job. I suspect the latter. I’m trying to visualize a career, ANY career where you’re better off without a sense of humor. Fluther moderator perhaps?

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@stanleybmanly Hey come on. The mods here do a helluva job. Even if I do stump them from time to time.:)

flo's avatar

It is all subjective isn’t it? What is funny and what it isn’t?

snowberry's avatar

LOL, yeah, Maybe the rest of us are all overly humored. And she’s the normal one!

stanleybmanly's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe In times of boredom we should poke the gods with a stick.

glacial's avatar

@snowberry Hmm… you may be right – I thought that was funny.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@stanleybmanly Okay, poke away, but be nice. :)

drhat77's avatar

Humor is the brain’s pressure release valve for two tasks that cannot be completed: these two pieces of information are contradictory and must be reconciled, vs these two pieces of information are contradictory and cannot be reconciled. Instead of go nuts resolving the paradox, most people would choose to laugh and forget about it.

Example, I’m a doctor, so I am expected to be poised and proper. The other day someone asked me which of somethings were my favorite. I answered “Oh, I can’t choose, they just like my children: I set a very high bar and cull the failures.”
The person looked at me shocked for a moment.
Datum 1: this man is a physician
Datum 2: this man sounds like Hannibal Lecter
Silence of the Lambs aside, these two points are fundamentally contradictory. Most people would realize I was joking, because that is the only socially acceptable reconciliation for this contradiction. That is why the brain has humor.
Someone without a sense of humor may choose instead a concrete explanation, basically I’m a doctor AND a sociopath, which is technically possible, but vanshingly unlikely

snowberry's avatar

^^ Thanks for that. Funny, yet expressive and oh, so true!

flo's avatar

How do you explain people who make or laugh at 9/11 “jokes”, rape “jokes” etc.?

snowberry's avatar

True @flo. I don’t find those jokes funny either. But my jokes are so improbable, folks can’t help but understand I’m not serious. Except this gal. I can see how it would be work for me to hang around with her, because I’d have to be sooo careful in what I said.

drhat77's avatar

Some people make jokes about rape because they are assholes who are too cowardly to rape a woman, but secretly dream of it. But others joke about it because they fear it, or because they want to stop it but they cannot, so the only power they have over it is humor. It becomes touchy because it can activate PTSD, so for all my bizzare humor, I try to avoid it.

wildpotato's avatar

@drhat77 It sounds like you are trying to describe the incongruity theory of humor, but didn’t quite get it right. The incongruity theory says that there is a juxtaposition between a concept and the real object or substance or what have you that the concept corresponds to, and the feeling of humor and laughter discharges the tension created by this juxtaposition. In other words, humor is a way of mediating apparently oddly formed symbols. You seem to say it is a matter of incongruity between two concepts. This seems less likely to me because reality-testing gets used in a strict way on objects/substances/what have you, and not on concepts – so incongruity is far less likely to rear its head. But your example of physician who sounds like a maniac still works – it’s just that “Hannibal Lecter” is the incongruous concept, and “physician” is the (non)corresponding real-world object.

jerv's avatar

Has nobody ever heard of taking the sting and pain out of something with humour?

gailcalled's avatar

An interesting question; @wildpotato‘s paraphrasing of the incongruity theory of humor makes sense to me, particularly the idea of “playing it safe.”

I also appreciate @jerv‘s straightforward and down-to-earth description of his reactions.

I see it on fluther sometimes; there are several people who are overly earnest and routinely miss the teasing, the irony or the lightheartedness.

There are often threads here with lots of give and take that many find hilarious; I just shake my head. There are many different kinds of senses of humor. I do know that my close friends all my life have had the same one as mine.

The “why” must be related to how individual brains are wired. Why, for example, do I get lost really easily, even on familiar terrain?

Smitha's avatar

Sense of humor depends on a great extent to how a person was raised. A strict upbringing could be the reason, it’s all based on one’s personality.
Some people may appear to be or will try to be more serious than others but they might be very nice fun people otherwise. Such people try to maintain their seriousness by sheer force of will. I guess you can make anyone laugh given the right communication with them or (just try tickling them)

drhat77's avatar

@gailcalled It’s easy to miss dry humor on the internet because verbal communication has almost none of the humor. It’s all delivered in non verbals, which are stripped out in text based communication.
@wildpotato thank you for that better explanation. I tried to google it but didn’t know the buzz words, so I failed. In anycase, you’re telling me people resolve my humor by assuming I’m a sociopath and finding it funny that I’m a doctor? Yikes, I really better re-think my sense of humor.

JimTurner's avatar

It seems some of us are afraid to let our guard down. Maybe because we were hurt in the past or have a different outlook on life.

Usually you find people who have their own type of humor. Not everyone gets The Three Stooges or Laurel and Hardy but they believe George Carlin was a genius or they sat up nights watching Johnny Carson.

Yet we should remember there are some of us who are laughing in the inside but don’t feel we always have to show it on the outside☺

flo's avatar

@drhat77 “assholes who are too cowardly to rape a woman…”
I’m guessing cowardly is not the word you wanted to use. Otherwise Your honor, I was just trying to be a brave person when I did the raping, I was expecting to get a medal of some kind.”

gailcalled's avatar

@drhat77; Good humorous writers seem able to impart their dry humor in the text without needing a tone of voice, a tip of an eyebrow, an emoticon or a particular inflection.

Woody Allen, Garrison Keillor and Mark Twain come to mind.

drhat77's avatar

@flo I think rapists are the extreme tip of the misogynistic iceberg. the ones who are crazy enough to do that. I think for every rapist, there are many assholes who dreams about raping women but doesn’t want to face the consequences, so they don’t. But they make rape jokes instead.

bolwerk's avatar

Most rapists are doing what most people who have sex are trying to do at least subconsciously: reproduce. They just do it in a particularly brutal/risky way.

snowberry's avatar

@bolwerk That’s interesting. I wish you had showed up to comment on this question: http://www.fluther.com/166682/why-do-people-consider-slut-shaming-and-victim-blaming-to-be/#quip2858219

Most folks there insisted that rape is ALWAYS about power and control.

Of course, there were a few idiots who insisted on arguing regardless of what anyone said, but this is Fluther, after all.

drhat77's avatar

@bolwerk I do believe rape is about violence and destruction and not really about sex.

flo's avatar

@drhat77 I didn’t think you meant it is bravery of course, I just have always wondered what the word should be in statements similar to that. . It can’t be the same when someone is too fraid to do the right thing, and to do the wrong thing. I just never asked. I am now.

bolwerk's avatar

@drhat77: that’s not backed by evidence. IIRC, rapists blow their load quickly so they can get away (we make fun of them for it, but it’s true). Also, pregnancy is more likely to result from rape.

Moral issues aside, it’s pretty safe to say rape is something we evolved with, and it’s an effective sexual strategy under the right circumstances.

ISmart's avatar

Haters will hate

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