Social Question

Dutchess_III's avatar

Is there an evolutionary or psychological purpose for the human sense of humor?

Asked by Dutchess_III (27074 points ) March 5th, 2014

And do you think animals have a sense of humor?

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21 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

Laughing is healthy:

Lower blood pressure
Increase vascular blood flow and oxygenation of the blood
Give a workout to the diaphragm and abdominal, respiratory, facial, leg, and back muscles
Reduce certain stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline
Increase the response of tumor- and disease-killing cells such as Gamma-interferon and T-cells
Defend against respiratory infections–even reducing the frequency of colds–by immunoglobulon in saliva.
Increase memory and learning; in a study at Johns Hopkins University Medical School, humor during instruction led to increased test scores
Improve alertness, creativity, and memory

So there is a decided purpose to it, it makes us feel better.

KNOWITALL's avatar

I absolutely think my dog laughs sometimes, you know, the big toothy grin when the ‘parents’ are being silly. GQ, sister.

Here’s a good article on the rest:
It is an advanced intellectual means of developing new perspectives and coping with extreme circumstances.

http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2010/03/02/the-hidden-power-of-humor/

Blondesjon's avatar

It’s what keeps me from crying.

hominid's avatar

This article provides the explanation that I have heard most often.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@hominid Always comes back to that with you guys – lol

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

With a name like Platypus, how could they not have a sense of humor?

Blackberry's avatar

Probably to distract us from the fact that we’re clueless animals with no idea how or why we’re even alive lol.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I’m pretty sure my Dakota has a sense of humor. Dutchess, not so much. They each have a big bone that they get at Christmas every year. They get into the silliest tussles over their bones! Dakota teases Dutchess with them sometimes.
Dakota loves the snow, Dutchess hates it. The other day Dakota took both bones outside and put them in the snow, then laid down by the back door. It was a sliding glass door and Dutchess could clearly see the bones, and it drove her insane! Dakota just laughed.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

My female golden was very smart, and the male was bull in the china shop dumb. She used to love to tease him with a toy or frisbie when he was inside their pen and she was outside. She would stand right by the fence and slowly walk upwards, away from the gate and he would follow her up the fence, even though the gate was wide open. She would do that for a long time and it drove him nuts because he couldn’t get to her, or so he thought.

Dutchess_III's avatar

LOL!! Like I said, Dakota is smart and seems to have a sense of humor. Dutchess isn’t so smart and doesn’t seem to have that same sense of humor. Hmmm. I wonder if intelligence is related to humor in humans too?

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I think humor and intelligence are closely linked. At least quality humor. The best humor is subtle.

Mimishu1995's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe Agree.
And I admit my humor sometimes help me hide my true (sad) feelings. I’m sometimes mistaken for a strong girl thanks to that.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@Mimishu1995 Interesting. I think a lot of people use humor to hide their hurts. I’m not sure I agree with that. I’m a strong person, but at times I also let all my emotions out. Why are you having sad feelings? PM me if it’s private that you don’t want to share with the world. Although, sometimes I’d much rather laugh than cry. :)

Dutchess_III's avatar

“Quality” humor. Interesting. When I was going through NetFlix I noticed that they had a designation for “Silly Humor.” Things like Chevy Chase’s movies were listed under that…“Animal House”, “Vacation,” etc. I liked them when I was a teenager, but not as an adult. My husband loves those goofy comedies. I despise them now. Have not told him that they come under the heading of “Silly.” He’d prolly get mad!

talljasperman's avatar

To counter out the fight or flight function… to help the community stand down.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@Dutchess_III I see a guy get hit in the nuts with a ball, I’ll laugh a bit. It’s not me after all. But something that really strikes me as funny has to have some depth to it.

cazzie's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe I don’t know. I don’t find strip mining very funny.

but, sure. yeah. I think humour is a reasonable and essential coping mechanism. It helps us deal with the most horrific things. ‘Gallows humour’ is certainly very primal, and who doesn’t love to laugh at a funeral in between tears? Our sense of humour isn’t just the ability to crack jokes, but our sense to appreciate them as well. At the darkest of times, our sense to see the ridiculous, ironic, sardonic, idiosyncratic, drole and let the darkness wash over us and see a glimmer of hope and life keeps us going.

Animals absolutely have a sense of fun and humour. No doubt in my mind.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@cazzie That’s pretty bad. :) But I get your point. I’d rather laugh than cry, even if it’s in a bad situation. And a smile is always worth the effort it takes to produce it.

bolwerk's avatar

An evolutionary purpose may be to encourage social or group cohesion. Often people in an in-group will laugh at outsiders, which makes it a form of dominant behavior/aggression. It’s certainly a social process (people laugh at what other people do, and laugh more together – hence the appeal to laugh tracks on sitcoms).

Psychologically, it seems quite cathartic.

Coloma's avatar

Jokes on us!
Perhaps the more evolved we become the more we realize the futility and irony of it all. lol

Haleth's avatar

Humor helps us build friendships with other people, and strengthen our bonds. Before there were cities and societies, having a tight-knit group would have helped people survive together. Nowadays, society is bigger and more impersonal, but humor can still bridge the gap between people. Everyday life is full of absurdity, and commenting on that is a great way to connect with someone. That’s probably also why sitcoms and stand-up comedy are about everyday life, and why they’re so popular. Humor lets total strangers have a moment of, “Hey, me too!” If you use it right, it can be like a verbal high-five.

Or you can use sarcasm to skewer some wrong or injustice you see in the world. With my generation, this works especially well with politics and social issues. Shows like The Colbert Report and Pen & Teller: Bullshit are pretty popular with people my age. Among ourselves, we use sarcasm and snarky humor to show the fallacies of the other side. Humor works better than just a dry statement of facts and opinions, because it keeps the audience entertained long enough to deliver a point, and it’s memorable.

If it’s from your side, you get a chuckle and a feeling of being on the same team. If it’s from the other side, it’s kind of like, “heh, zing.” Which is the point. If someone came up to me and said that democrats were greedy, I’d probably just get angry. Joking about it diffuses that initial anger, and it gets the other side to at least think about whatever you’re trying to say, instead of dismissing it outright. (Related: I wish political cartoons were funnier. It’s like, you had one job!)

So, humor: the glue that holds society together, a memorable means of communication, and vehicle for social change?

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