the humour mill: why our brains make us laugh

I’m hearing rumours that humour is intimately linked to thinking. Bonus! Because I like to laugh. I’m hoping this means I’m uber smart!

A new book (2011) called “Inside Jokes: Using Humour to Reverse-Engineer the Mind” has the following premise:

our brains make sense of our daily lives via a never ending series of assumptions, based on sparse, incomplete information. All these best guesses simplify our world, give us critical insights into the minds of others, and streamline our decisions. But mistakes are inevitable, and even a small faulty assumption can open the door to bigger and costlier mistakes. Enter mirth, a little pulse of reward the brain gives itself for seeking out and correcting our mistaken assumptions.

A sense of humor is the lure

that keeps our brains alert

for the gaps between our quick-fire

assumptions and reality. 

Coauthored by three scholars, the book started as an undergrad term paper. Matthew Hurley took a course on humor, and started wondering why humans find anything funny. Why have a sense of humor in the first place? Continue reading

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