Do Animals Have Humor?

Nov 6, 2017

By Joseph Castro

Between verbal jokes, slapstick comedy and tickling, there are numerous reasons we laugh. But are humans the only species with a sense of humor?

The short answer is no, but it also depends on how you define “humor.”

For millennia, philosophers and psychologists have struggled to come up with an exact definition for what constitutes as humor. They’ve presented numerous theories over the years, one of the most popular being the “incongruity theory” of humor. At its basic level, this theory says that humor arises when there’s an inconsistency between what one expects to happen and what actually happens — and this includes comedic tools like puns, irony and twists of fate.

Under this definition, the vast majority of animals probably don’t have a sense of humor, as they lack the cognitive mechanisms and networks that would allow them to identify such inconsistencies.

One known exception is Koko, the famous western lowland gorilla who understands more than 1,000 American Sign Language signs and 2,000 spoken English words. The clever primate is known not only to use language to humorous effect by playing with different meanings of the same word, but also to understand slapstick comedy — she’s reportedly signed the word “chase” after tying her trainer’s shoelaces together and made laughing noises at her trainer’s clumsiness.

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56 comments on “Do Animals Have Humor?

  • the “incongruity theory” of humor. At its basic level, this theory says that humor arises when there’s an inconsistency between what one expects to happen and what actually happens — and this includes comedic tools like puns, irony and twists of fate.

    I think I’ve seen animals like cats and dogs behaving like they understand this particular type of humor. But let’s see if it fits. When my wonderful cat was alive, we used to play a (mean) game with him where when he was strolling through the house in a self absorbed meandering fashion, one of the kids would hide behind a corner that he was sure to pass by. Kid would jump out in front of him. He’d panic and jump but then would be drawn into the game and after a few rounds of this he’d be the one hiding behind the corner and jumping out at the unsuspecting kids and he’d be doing all sorts of exaggerated leaps and zooming around them at top speeds. Granted he couldn’t physical crack a smile but what was it all for if not for the sheer fun of it? Certainly he didn’t think he’d bring one of the kids down in a headlock and have a bloody meal when it was all said and done. Was this cat having fun (without laughing) or is this anthropomorphizing on my part?

    In recent years, psychologists came up with a different theory. They propose that humor arises from so-called or “something that threatens a person’s well-being, identity or normative belief structure but that simultaneously seems okay,” they wrote in a .

    Benign violation can explain why a number of things make us laugh, including being tickled: That is, tickling benignly violates someone’s physical space. You can’t tickle yourself because that doesn’t constitute a violation and complete strangers can’t tickle you to the point of laughter because you won’t see it as a benign act.

    On this one, a benign violation, another similar (mean) game that our cat used to initiate with us is when we’d be outside on warm nights in the backyard in total darkness. We used to sit quietly at twilight to watch bats emerge in the night sky. Out of nowhere, when someone was standing there looking up, our cat would come rocketing out of the underbrush and at high speed go hurtling past us making sure to graze our legs in the process and then end his trajectory in the flower beds on the other side of the yard. This terrorized the kids (and me) since we couldn’t see him at all in the dark. He was black. He would buzz us like this a few times then wander off on his prowls in search of smaller victims. If he was physically capable of laughter (being a cat it would be sadistic jeering laughter no doubt) I think he would have been roaring with laughter. Again, why bother with this behavior if not for the payoff of hearing us shriek with fear. And he repeated it so many times. What for if not for his own (sadistic) amusement? I think he knew that the bumbling humans couldn’t see him in the dark and couldn’t see much of anything in the dark and freaked out when he buzzed us. His idea of a wicked funny joke and a benign violation against us in a domain that he was completely competent in but we were a bunch of big dumb sitting ducks in that same space.



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  • Laurie, my friend, that is a most incomplete definition of humor. Humor is among the more complex psychological subjects. Not all humor is a violation, and not all violations are funny. One could argue that our enjoyment of horror (movies and stories) is based on the feeling of being violated and simultaneously knowing we’re safe. However, your definition does support the general theory of the ludicrous, which, according to Schopenhauer, includes all of the various forms of humor.

    Phil, I am not surprised that you wrote “yes.” You seem to think that everything is capable of everything; animals have compassion (which I suppose they do) and of course they have humor too! Of course. Well they don’t.

    If everything runs along a continuum then my watch is amused at the fact that it stopped working just now – and if it could smile it would, I am sure.

    Animals are playful. So are very young children; but they are serious when they play. (I suppose if an animal is being deliberately provocative it could be said to be playing a joke. Who the hell knows?)

    Chapter VIII. On The Theory Of The Ludicrous.

    My theory of the ludicrous also depends upon the opposition explained in the preceding chapters between perceptible and abstract ideas, which I have brought into such marked prominence. Therefore what has still to be said in explanation of this theory finds its proper place here, although according to the order of the text it would have to come later. The problem of the origin, which is everywhere the same, and hence of the peculiar significance of laughter, was already known to Cicero, but only to be at once dismissed as insoluble (De Orat., ii. 58). The oldest attempt known to me at a psychological explanation of laughter is to be found in Hutcheson’s “Introduction into Moral Philosophy,” Bk. I., ch. i.§ 14. A somewhat later anonymous work, “Traité des Causes Physiques et Morals du Rire,” 1768, is not without merit as a ventilation of the subject. Platner, in his “Anthropology,” § 894, has collected the opinions of the philosophers from Hume to Kant who have attempted an explanation of this phenomenon peculiar to human nature. Kant’s and Jean Paul’s theories of the ludicrous are well known. I regard it as unnecessary to prove their incorrectness, for whoever tries to refer given cases of the ludicrous to them will in the great majority of instances be at once convinced of their insufficiency.

    According to my explanation given in the first volume, the source of the ludicrous is always the paradoxical, and therefore unexpected, subsumption of an object under a conception which in other respects is different from it, and accordingly the phenomenon of laughter always signifies the sudden apprehension of an incongruity between such a conception and the real object thought under it, thus between the abstract and the concrete object of perception. The greater and more unexpected, in the apprehension of the laughter, this incongruity is, the more violent will be his laughter. Therefore in everything that excites laughter it must always be possible to show a conception and a particular, that is, a thing or event, which certainly can be subsumed under that conception, and therefore thought through it, yet in another and more predominating aspect does not belong to it at all, but is strikingly different from everything else that is thought through that conception. If, as often occurs, especially in witticisms, instead of such a real object of perception, the conception of a subordinate species is brought under the higher conception of the genus, it will yet excite laughter only through the fact that the imagination realises it, i.e., makes a perceptible representative stand for it, and thus the conflict between what is thought and what is perceived takes place. Indeed if we wish to understand this perfectly explicitly, it is possible to trace everything ludicrous to a syllogism in the first figure, with an undisputed major and an unexpected minor, which to a certain extent is only sophistically valid, in consequence of which connection the conclusion partakes of the quality of the ludicrous.

    In the first volume I regarded it as superfluous to illustrate this theory by examples, for every one can do this for himself by a little reflection upon cases of the ludicrous which he remembers. Yet, in order to come to the assistance of the mental inertness of those readers who prefer always to remain in a passive condition, I will accommodate myself to them. […]

    When we discover such an incongruity, the occasion for laughter that thereby arises is, according as we pass from the real, i.e., the perceptible, to the conception, or conversely from the conception to the real, either a witticism or an absurdity, which in a higher degree, and especially in the practical sphere, is folly, as was explained in the text. Now to consider examples of the first case, thus of wit, we shall first of all take the familiar anecdote of the Gascon at whom the king laughed when he saw him in light summer clothing in the depth of winter, and who thereupon said to the king: “If your Majesty had put on what I have, you would find it very warm;” and on being asked what he had put on, replied: “My whole wardrobe!” Under this last conception we have to think both the unlimited wardrobe of a king and the single summer coat of a poor devil, the sight of which upon his freezing body shows its great incongruity with the conception.
    -Schopenhauer



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  • Our behaviours have deep roots. Stuff evolves and that is interesting.

    https://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2015/nov/17/tickling-rats-giggling-dolphins-do-animals-sense-humour

    You seem to think that everything is capable of everything

    And, Dan, you have no means of controlling your endless exaggeration and polarisation of what (you think) I may be thinking.

    Exaggerate this. Our (main) “error detector” the anterior cingulate cortex (often used to suppress amygdala initiated actions) seems very often stimulated when we see something that makes us laugh. Map that to the theory voiced above that “laughter” has its roots perhaps in play fighting to remind everyone its a game.



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  • Dan

    Yes, I see, but then, explain to me why I convulse with laughter when I see a perfectly respectable adult slip on a banana peel and fall to the ground screaming. Hmmm?



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  • Laurie

    A challenge! I love it. I’ll take a shot at it, but Maddow has started!

    The key to that, I think, is the word “respectability.” Laughter is produced by the apparent incongruity of a respectable adult and this misstep; that produces satisfaction – and a sense of justice is subsumed within that satisfaction. It is, perhaps, a species of social satire. The incongruity associated with the conception “respectable”, the juxtaposition with a “man slipping”, produces satisfaction, and we call that satisfaction funny – and we laugh. In other words, the pretense of the respectable man – that is, his inherent frailty and imperfect nature – is exposed by his fall. We are laughing at ourselves if he is no more “respectable” than the next man, and at him if his “respectability” is in any way inflated.

    If the man is not respectable one’s laughter could be simply sadistic pleasure. Unbeautiful are the lives of those who would laugh at another’s pain, or who enjoy sticking pins in balloons but to no good purpose. (Not applicable to you.)



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  • Pricking pomposity totally misses the root of the guffaw.

    Look at “Kid Fail Compilation”s. (I laugh rarely at these because of undeserved pain and indignity, but sometimes the fail guffaw is just too big for my civilised self to step in with concern in time.)

    Its as simple as expectations thwarted.



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  • Expectation thwarted still belongs roughly within the the theory of the ludicrous, as presented above. On the one hand you have a person in apparent possession of himself and then he loses that control he thought he had, and we laugh at that incongruity. This type of humor is the lowest form of humor, as there is no accompanying idea (e.g., a sense of mastery of oneself exposed as inflated) associated with such a spectacle and which one absorbs. there is only crude “expectation thwarted” (which is not funny in itself) and the vulgar spectacle that everyone readily understands; such merriment borders on the imbecilic and the sadistic.

    The phenomenon of tickling someone and the laughter it produces is not really about humor. That is a simple excitatory response. In fact, explaining laughter from being tickled is analogous to explaining tears of rage or anger as expressions of sadness.

    You don’t think everything is capable of everything, but you do tend to say that everything is caused by biological evolutionary processes. Humor, wit, the comical, etc., is clearly a cultural and psychological phenomenon, as is the sense of tragedy. The biological processes associated with the production of smiles and laughter is for biologists to ponder and determine, but they will never arrive at a comprehensive or satisfactory theory of (the meaning of) humor that way.



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  • I really really shouldn’t comment on this stuff. Proposing deep biological and genetic roots for high level behaviours and then go on to how these become the become the stuff of cultural evolution is a fruitless task with you, however I go about it.

    This type of humor is the lowest form of humor

    The very point. Thank you.

    such merriment borders on the imbecilic and the sadistic

    Yep. That would be very likely for the animal roots of humour.

    tickling

    not one of my points, though I can argue that it is akin to play fighting and elicits play fighting responses.

    but [biologists] will never arrive at a comprehensive or satisfactory theory of (the meaning of) humor that way.

    When where they ever going to? This is a bizarre point.



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  • LaurieB #3

    Nov 7, 2017 at 3:47 pm

    I knew you’d fall for it. ?

    Fall for it. Apt phrase.

    (I got Phil the other day with a fake article; now you’re playing jokes on Alan. We’re a couple of peas in a pod.)

    Phil

    This is a bizarre point.

    I am a bizarre guy; what can I say?



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  • Phil

    Our (main) “error detector” the anterior cingulate cortex (often used to suppress amygdala initiated actions) seems very often stimulated when we see something that makes us laugh.

    You also referred to the “animal roots of humor”.

    This is what I was responding to. Read my comments again, if you can. Are we both just a couple of stubborn mild Aspies? (I have tons of empathy; I just don’t show it. What’s the point of showing it if I know I have it? Hee-hee.)

    “Children [adults?] with Asperger’s Disorder may not understand the subtleties of language, such as irony and humor [I do], or they may not understand the give-and-take nature of a conversation.



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  • The problem I have is with the assumptions that we are not animals.
    This hairy fellow seems to be having fun and entertaining himself.
    If observed by another gorilla, they would understand the behavior.
    I can’t recall the study where mice were found to play in a exercise wheel left in the wild. The recorded sounds were described as “laughing”……….very unscientific……



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  • You can say that that gorilla is being funny and has a sense of humor.

    I think it is just having fun, and maybe we think it is funny (and cute). Having fun, appearing funny to us, and trying to be funny. You tell me the difference, Alf.

    (Only a brute would say that humans are not animals.)

    Proposing deep biological and genetic roots for high level behaviours and then go on to how these become the become the stuff of cultural evolution is a fruitless task with you, however I go about it.

    Freud wrote about wit and made some good points and some that weren’t so good. Nowhere does he or Schopenhauer mention the biological roots of wit (humor). It didn’t interest them. I’d be very interested to learn something about the origin of humor in people. But I don’t think that the meanings associated with the many forms of humor are to be explained by evolutionary biologists. And you already said that they would never attempt to explain something like that. So what the hell are we arguing about, Phil?



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  • I guess this is kind of interesting.

    http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/147470490600400129

    The First Joke: Exploring the Evolutionary Origins of Humor

    . . . Tickling, chase games, and other forms of play have an intuitive appeal for all children. Darwin (1872/1920) first recognized that the areas most vulnerable to tickling such as the neck, abdomen and soles of the feet are perhaps equally the most vulnerable areas to predator attack. Koestler (1964) framed tickling as a “mock attack” and therefore evolutionary adaptive. According to Shultz, the re-creation of a predatory attack inherently possesses incongruous and congruous parts. Tickling and chase games fall within a certain window of arousal similar to humor (an actual attack would be too arousing and therefore scary and no attack is not arousing at all). Laughter accompanies the reduction in arousal. […]



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  • We are arguing over the existence of the discipline of neuro-psychology and its role in the roots and evolutionary development of behaviours. We are not arguing over the cultural evolution of behaviours (yet, though these possibly go back 60 million years to when mammals could more safely emerge into the daylight from a stealthy night time existence.)

    Biologists don’t do any neuro-psychology. They don’t do animal psychology. You dis the disciplines every time.

    The understood behaviours of the anterior cingulate cortex gives a satisfying starting explanation for why this error detector deals with threat more safely (not hurting friends and relatives) and generates signalling to denote this is play (for training purposes only), why somebody’s tumble isn’t the start of a fight and therefore a moment of relief of tension being initiated in the amygdala by the fall. The pleasure kick comes with this release of tension. The unexpected is key. There is a joker, the fall guy, and eventually the audience. We gain dopamine rewards by our self stimulating behaviours (tripping a mate), we even reward others for their stimulations of us (tripping a third party).

    There is a bigger point to this. The crudeness of our myriad detectors, of kin, of the young, of threat like this and that, of kindness, of nurturing of authority, of safety, present us with untold richness of feelings and behaviours, that no end of philosophical musings can ever bottom out alone. We see only the potentially salient not the huge submerged animal self. This sheer resultant complexity of feelings from crude detectors is exactly why we know that artificial intelligence may endlessly miss experience like human experience. It will be too efficient in its determinations. Its capacity to dance always on the edge of a rich and generative neurosis, scrupulously eliminated.



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  • You can say that that gorilla is being funny and has a sense of humor.

    I certainly wouldn’t. But we self stimulate our myriad detectors. Some apes seem to wonder at waterfalls, rapt for long periods of contemplation. Young others put rocks on their shoulders as if they were carrying infants. Some travel out to particularly resonant tree stumps and throw rocks at them, perhaps in cathartic attempts to dissipate tension or anger.

    Our neural circuitry needs use to stay viable. (The brain is the the most costly organ to run and ferociously deletes any bits of itself that appear un-used. Use it or lose it). Culture and its stimulations first grows and then maintains mammal brains.



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  • Excellent paper, for 2006, Dan.

    Ramachandran’s input is congruent with mine (not surprising as I learned much from him on the ACC). He’s one of the lead researchers in neuro-psychology. It’d be interesting to see what he would say now there is a wealth more detail to hand.



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  • alf

    I can’t recall the study where mice were found to play in a exercise wheel left in the wild. The recorded sounds were described as “laughing”……….very unscientific……

    Maria points out how primatologist Jane Goodall was freed from the constraints of needing to appear not to anthropomorphise animals, else you were deemed unscientific. Language outside of human behaviours is pretty barren and that made the animal observations barren also. Sequences of behaviours with all their subtlety cannot be seen as connected; are not even noticed. Jane Goodall chose rather to take notice as best she could.

    Losing our religious-rooted attitude of uniqueness of human qualities and replacing it with an understanding that quantity affects quality, we can see that most animal behaviours may sit on a continuum. Useful behaviour modifiers that help keep peace in ALL socialised animals, might also respond to all other risky things in ALL socialised animals.

    Climbing onto the alien spinny thing. Running and not getting anywhere. WTF?

    Ah! Ah! Ah! Weeeeeeeeeeee! Ha, ha ha.

    I’m scared but I think I’m safe.



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  • The closeness of laughter to fear is apparent on this one.

    https://youtu.be/hZMS3uMzABg

    Slipping over on a banana brings fear first and then the coping mechanism when watching others. A good way to cover things up if I do the slipping as well. My embarrassment turns to a group laughing session.



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  • Dan

    Fall for it. Apt phrase.

    I don’t like that I wrote that. This morning on reread it sounds negative. I wasn’t laying a trap. In fact, I think-where else could I point out that an article on particle physics has used a ridiculous non-measurement, and get some actual math in a response? I like having all different sorts of people in my life but there are precious few who would have responded that way. Most are just not capable of understanding my objection in the first place. Then, even if they did they would not be capable of going the extra step. I have a great appreciation for my science friends and that’s both the ones in real life and also those who are mostly virtual/real life.

    Self-analysis: I resolve to be less snarky. Think first. Type second.



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  • Laurie

    The man slips on a banana peel falls. Why is that funny, you ask?

    Fall for it. Apt phrase. It maybe the same “incongruity”. That’s all I meant.

    Hope you’re not mad at me.

    Phil said that expectation thwarted is funny; I thought my quick analysis (#6) of your man slipping was better. Thwarted expectation is only half of it. Other conceptions and perceptions have to be present. The laughter of the faller is not significant. Nor is his safety. That might play a role.

    I thought we were talking about humor. Laughter is not funny.



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  • The incongruity of falling and being safe would not cause one to laugh; laughter during play is one thing; laughter at a falling person is another; not the same, necessarily. Perceiving safety would simply produce relief, not amusement. Why don’t you all listen instead of satisfying confirmation bias all the time?



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  • Jane Goodall was freed from the constraints of needing to appear not to anthropomorphise animals, else you were deemed unscientific.

    They should try to see similarities where there are similarities and should see no significant or detectable similarity if there is no similarity. She thought that gorillas were capable of “altruism” beyond immediate kin; and Dawkins corrected her; true altruism involves care for future generations which gorillas do NOT have. Good point, RD. In that sense we are unique; but of course we are not unique in every respect; only an incompetent fool would argue that the human species is unique in every respect. All qualities are quantitative. Do animals (the “lower” ones) have humor? I say no. Are some elements of it, the rudiments in its germ, present? Yeah. Sure. I guess.



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  • Dan

    I thought we were talking about humor. Laughter is not funny.

    Certainly not. Funny causes laughter among other things.

    We were discussing the deep evolutionary roots of humour.

    Pricking pomposity totally misses the root of the guffaw… Its as simple as expectations thwarted.

    Now in

    The incongruity of falling and being safe would not cause one to laugh

    you miss the essential feature that our detectors don’t work from an intellectual understanding of the scene before us. We cognise via multiple channels in parallel. Danger is sensed (correctly or incorrectly) subconsciously and very rapidly via the amygdala. Safety more slowly via an inferential analysis of far more elements. The ACC error detector, the hypothesis goes, cancels the adrenaline production and the muscles tensing for action and for quite other evolutionary reasons also releases a signal to others that things are OK, its not a real fight breaking out.

    Laughter probably first evolved during play fights and cultural evolution, like genetic evolution’s laziness using the same solution many times under many different circumstances, led to laughter being used for many things but certainly for many ACC error detections.



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  • In zoology altruism is defined as benefiting others at your own expense. “Future generations” is not a viable animal concept.

    The treatment of Penny is the sweet one here.

    https://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=338936897

    Another De Waal’s experiment elsewhere of monkeys giving up their own food to protest inadequate food given to others.

    As we know, human kids fail to do this if they come from a marginal country.



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  • I wasn’t talking about the “deep evolutionary roots” of laughter or humor; you were. I presented what was intended to be read as a serious attempt at a comprehensive theory (of the “ludicrous”).

    Falling per se is not funny, has never been funny, will never be funny. Looking at someone falling may give pleasure to some; that is merely the egoistic pleasure derived from seeing someone other than oneself suffer, i.e. sadism, cruelty.

    Laughter at play fights and enjoyment of being scared when one is safe are closely related. But this – if it is really how it all began, and how can we know that? – is only part of a larger theory of humor and pleasure, and is not a satisfactory explanation of humor in itself; nor does it constitute being an essential part of a comprehensive theory; it needs to be developed.



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  • Dan

    It’s not about getting pleasure from watching someone fall. It’s the fear of them hurting themselves followed by nervous laughter. Intelligent jokes make me laugh, certain mishaps make me giggle like a baby.



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  • Phil, altruism is defined as benefiting others. “Future generations” is not a viable animal concept; therefore this higher form of (human) altruistic behavior is not applicable to animals, and that makes us relatively quite unique!

    Olgun, I don’t think that that is really why we laugh at slipping and falling (slapstick humor). That is, perhaps, one part of it. The more pompous or self satisfied a person is the more we laugh at him falling. Watching someone on stilts at a circus fall would make me smile; not so much because he wasn’t hurt, but because he is too damned sure of himself. Seeing an elderly woman fall and not get hurt is not funny. It’s horrifying. There is no pretense on the part of the elderly person; she is struggling to get to where she is going; and therefore, there is no humor.

    Falling is only funny when we consider such things as this: complacency or self-satisfaction followed by exposure. Perhaps all or most falls suggest some element of complacency and smug self assurance. I really don’t think that the ultimate safety of the faller is a significant element.

    The incongruity theory involving perceptions with conceptions remains intact.



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  • Yet, Dan, the term altruism is often used in zoology.

    I think the argument for substantial roots is there yet again. The missing (human) component does not in and of itself heighten altruistic behaviour (benefiting others at your own expense), it simply offers another (unrealised) dimension to operate in.



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  • I really don’t think that the ultimate safety of the faller is a significant element.

    No. You really haven’t understood how primitive the alarm detector is. You only seem able to imagine you detect through inferential PFC means. This is too slow for real protection. Adrenaline needs to pumped up now, muscles readied. Its not the faller’s safety at all at issue, it is your amygdala warning you that danger is present, a fight , unsafe ground, what the bleep does it know. It just knows bad things are happening.



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  • My point about altruism is that if there is a separate zoological use of the word as opposed to one use, then that simply means that there are forms of altruism that are not applicable to animals. You can’t have it both ways. “Animals are just like people… Oh! except not in that way because that is not the correct zoological use of the word.” (No, this is not you I am quoting.) Do you see my point? As for humor, if you were to say that animals can play and have fun and therefore enjoy a rudimentary sense of humor and I were to challenge that by saying that animals cannot employ wit, and then you were to reply to that by saying: “wit is not a zoological term and is non-applicable to animals”, then that would just be a roundabout way of saying that animals differ from humans in that way.

    As for your comment 32, a man falls into an open manhole. In real life this would not produce laughter. In a film it would. That supports your thesis. It is his belief that he can stare into space without ramifications that makes it more funny. That supports this thesis:

    . . . the source of the ludicrous is always the paradoxical, and therefore unexpected, subsumption of an object under a conception which in other respects is different from it, and accordingly the phenomenon of laughter always signifies the sudden apprehension of an incongruity between such a conception and the real object thought under it, thus between the abstract and the concrete object of perception.

    We pass from the conception to the real. With the man who has fallen we have the conception of someone like ourselves; we have the complacency and apparent over-confidence of a carefree or serious man walking along; and the unexpected object, the sight of this accident, shows us its incongruity with that conception.



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  • Definitive explanation of humor:

    Man falls on his ass. CRH, a short polypeptide, is transported to the anterior pituitary, where it stimulates the secretion of corticotropin. Consequently, corticotropin stimulates increased production of corticosteroids including cortisol, the primary actor directly impacting the stress response. Vasopressin, a small hormone molecule, increases reabsorption of water by the kidneys and induces vasoconstriction, the contraction of blood vessels, thereby producing a sense of safety – and laughter.



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  • I face this all the time from Creationists.

    I’m tired of it.

    Yet again you go to stupid extremes and fail to see the continuum of how all this could possibly evolve.

    “animals are just like people” What!? FFS. Nonquote.

    So tired of it every fncking time.



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  • I) I have said things like this many times: “In that sense we are unique; but of course we are not unique in every respect; only an incompetent fool would argue that the human species is unique in every respect. All qualities are quantitative. Do animals (the “lower” ones) have humor? I say no. Are some elements of it, the rudiments in its germ, present? Yeah. Sure. I guess.”

    2) There is a tendency to seek to obliterate the differences between human animals and non-human animals. It is very prevalent, and I, being an anthropocentrist of sorts, find it objectionable. I made a point of saying, in my comment, that it was not you who would say “they are just like us” as I knew you would object, and should. But you still took it personally, and gave me no credit at all for my great sensitivity.



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  • No one here says this, “animals are just like people”. Even others far and yon who may say this for animal cruelty reasons don’t think it as being literally true. (Nor does anyone think chimps so altruistic as to start a trust fund for a nephew or a cat sanctuary. Yet “altruism” in animal psychology is a used accepted and understood term inside the field and out) You may think others think animals are people, but they are mostly few and sad. It’s mostly/all in your head. And I’m done with it.

    Ok, Dan. I am going to leave the subject for a good long while.

    I wanted to find an area where I can discuss science, scientifically, and this isn’t it.



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    But constantly diverting science threads away from science to some other pet subject is not acceptable (it comes under the heading of Drum-banging, which is not permitted under our Terms of Use).

    Nor is refusing to make any attempt to understand the scientific arguments being made, or the scientific terminology being used.

    No one will mind explaining the science to anyone who is genuinely interested and wants to learn. Again, it’s part of the purpose of the site. But at the same time, no one should have to keep explaining the same things over and over and over again to the same user just because that user consistently refuses to try to digest them, and no one should have to respond to lazy distortions of their arguments – it is an abuse of users’ time and patience and, frankly, it gets pretty tedious.

    The mods



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  • Statement

    The subject of the thread is “do animals have humor”?

    You can also ask: “do animals have morality?” Altruism, morality, humor, jokes, are just words.

    Goodall said that apes do have altruism. And she used the word! Dawkins said that they cannot conceive of doing something to protect future generations from harm. And in that sense, we as humans are unique. Now she didn’t go on to say that altruism is a zoological term. She nodded her head.

    And people do tend to want to establish what we have in common with animals more than what we don’t have in common.

    No one tries to digest what I say enough either; and maybe that is why I repeat myself more than I would like to. This is not exclusively a science-only-discussion site; nor is there one explanation “to be explained” by “science” or “evolution”. That’s how some people think of it, perhaps. That would be drum banging too. I am not lazy. And not everyone is a trained scientist; it is a site where thoughtful people can present ideas and points of view and try to add to knowledge and understanding – or not.

    There was no “scientific explanation” offered here of anything except the obviously inadequate and ridiculous notion that people falling makes us feel safe. I am tired of this unfairness.



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  • And! My abbreviated explanation of humor, thought of by you-know-who, had far more value than anything presented on this page. It is not scientific to dismiss that which can find validation through simple and honest reflection.

    Moreover, it also explains why the sense of humor among animals is severely limited: their ability to conceptualize is limited to the same degree that their sense of the ludicrous is limited.



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  • And, you’re right, Phil. No one here says this, “animals are just like people”.

    That is, they don’t literally mean “just like”.

    Here’s some science: “[Some] children [and some people] with Asperger Syndrome are [sometimes] literal thinkers…” – Jude Welton on Asperger Syndrome, metaphors and literal thinking



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  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g5WUIDzxUeo

    Exchange: Dawkins and Goodall. Please watch. 22: 16 – 23: 41

    This is the point I was making.

    What Dawkins is talking about is a higher form of altruism that chimpanzees do not have. It is not part of the zoological term as applied to animals. But it is significant that it does not apply. Saying that it “doesn’t apply” simply means that animals don’t have this capacity, this degree of altruism!

    (I’ll try to listen better.)



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  • phil rimmer #32

    Nov 9, 2017 at 2:06 am

    “I really don’t think that the ultimate safety of the faller is a significant element.” -Dan

    “No. You really haven’t understood how primitive the alarm detector is. You only seem able to imagine you detect through inferential PFC means. This is too slow for real protection. Adrenaline needs to pumped up now, muscles readied. Its not the faller’s safety at all at issue, it is your amygdala warning you that danger is present, a fight , unsafe ground, what the bleep does it know. It just knows bad things are happening.” -Phil

    What does this have to do with finding someone falling funny? Explain that and I will concede that I have been an ass. What have I “repeatedly failed” to understand?!



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  • This written before seeing #45.

    ridiculous notion that people falling makes us feel safe.

    If that’s what you think the hypothesis is, then you have grasped nothing.

    It is ridiculous, also, that my aunt thought my father a cheap Chinese copy, but the two route processing of visual information with earlier evolved detectors on the first circuit, delivering an emotional, threat, safe/good, dunno judgement at great speed (based on little data) conflicts sometimes with a slower, broader more rational consideration on the later developed circuit and explains the inadequate rational analysis with a diseased amygdala not delivering its emotional content. Blind sight shows us there is a pretty competent system developed involving this amygdala “threat” detection and the muscle memory of the cerebellum. This allows us somewhat to imagine what it is like to be a reptile catching a fly. This is certainly how athletes or soldiers work with astonishingly fast and detailed reflexes.

    These divided channels with their divided cognitive tasks (essentially, primal emotional and inferential/executive) will sometimes screw up leaving us vulnerable. It is fairly typical that evolution, which can’t go back and make a more integrated system without it becoming more dangerous, should fix this by super-adding more specialised modules (the error detector/corrector). This is an essential capacity for the development of social animals, which mammals increasingly are.

    Maybe this will help with what I actually proposed, but I note you never ever deal with any “brain module stuff” except to create a pastiche of it in an attempt to ridicule. You never argue from inside the hypothesis but go as far away as possible to argue top down.

    Your amygdala seems phobic of amygdalas. It shouldn’t be. Our kludged modularity is exactly why we cannot conceive of AI having the the richness of experience of our selves; why our sentiments are complex; why we are endlessly a puzzle (often delightful) to ourselves. What we humans make to clothe these innate capacities and stitch them culturally together is truly astonishing and where we (you and I) far more engage and concur.

    Work now. I’ll deal with 45 specifically later.



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  • Thank you, Phil, for the information. (Seriously.) I didn’t think for a moment that you thought that animals and people were the same. I should be more careful and less reactive.

    …ridiculous notion that people falling makes us feel safe.

    I meant: …ridiculous notion that people falling makes us feel safe and that is why it is funny. “Ridiculous” is too strong. Feeling safe is probably part of it but is incomplete as an explanation.

    Look up BBC The Selfish Green — David Attenborough – Richard Dawkins – Richard Leakey – Jane Goodall
    22:16 to 23:41, in case it doesn’t get posted.

    Work well. Thanks.



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  • The amygdala sees bad things happen. Muscles tense, heart rate rises, you gasp and hold your breath, adrenaline is cued. PFC says, someone just tripped up like this and this. The ACC adjudicates and issues a stand-down. Relief is its response. That held breath? Ha!

    Ha! Ha! becomes a signal for relief or it’s safe etc..

    (Facial expressions and other muscle dispositions when adopted drive feelings (its part of our empathy mechanism). Laughing during a play attack may be in part to confer a safer attitude in the other or a safer response in your self.)



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  • Dan #47
    Nov 10, 2017 at 4:31 am

    I meant: …ridiculous notion that people falling makes us feel safe and that is why it is funny. “Ridiculous” is too strong. Feeling safe is probably part of it but is incomplete as an explanation.

    I think there is a psychological aspect of Assimilation and Accommodation in seeing humour in situations.

    https://www.simplypsychology.org/piaget.html

    Example of Assimilation

    A 2-year-old child sees a man who is bald on top of his head and has long frizzy hair on the sides. To his father’s horror, the toddler shouts “Clown, clown” (Siegler et al., 2003).

    Example of Accommodation

    In the “clown” incident, the boy’s father explained to his son that the man was not a clown and that even though his hair was like a clown’s, he wasn’t wearing a funny costume and wasn’t doing silly things to make people laugh.

    With this new knowledge, the boy was able to change his schema of “clown” and make this idea fit better to a standard concept of “clown”.

    I have dealt with other aspects of these mental processes replying to you on another discussion, where the indoctrinating effects of repeated assertion from posing authority, pervert these mechanisms.

    (see – After Texas Church Massacre Paul Ryan Claims ‘Prayer Works’ #20 and #21)



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  • I did that (47) a little quickly. I meant to add, why we gasp and hold our breath. Its most probably a learned response to the amygdala’s simple-minded-heuristic danger alert. Be quiet as much and as long as you can. Gasp and hold.



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  • I liked 47. Very interesting indeed: the theory of the origin of laughter. What is “ha” anyway? It is a physiological response.

    (Separate point but not entirely unrelated: My late father, a life-long atheist, once asked this interesting question: “did Jesus ever laugh?” I later asked a priest that question. He looked very taken aback.)



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  • What is “ha” anyway? It is a physiological response.

    The sudden exhale after being silent with a held breath. It may have had an original “Ha! I’m not scared of you rustling tree or tumbling rock”, a sort of scaring off the scare. Who knows?

    Maybe it feeds into the power plays, “Ha, call that a knife….?” And even “Bwa, ha, ha, puny earthling…”

    More intriguing is that this mismatched timing in the cognition circuits may actually feed in some instances into why “timing” in visual and verbal jokes/mistakes is so significant.



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  • The French say Aïe.

    “Ow” is an abbreviation of the whole word we used from the seventeenth century derived possibly from the German autsch.

    It probably started as a cry, a sudden exhale “aah!” vocalised to alert others (possibly for help).

    Chimps have a more modulated indignant screech, which is used for different alarm purposes as well. When young it is often softer and less about communication.



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