Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Humour is shown to be fundamental to our success as a species

13.06.2008
First universal theory of humour answers how and why we find things funny

Published today The Pattern Recognition Theory of Humour by Alastair Clarke answers the centuries old question of what is humour. Clarke explains how and why we find things funny and identifies the reason humour is common to all human societies, its fundamental role in the evolution of homo sapiens and its continuing importance in the cognitive development of infants.

Clarke explains: “For some time now it’s been assumed that a global theory of humour is impossible. This theory changes thousands of years of incorrect analyses and mini-theories that have applied to only a small proportion of instances of humour. It offers a vital answer as to why humour exists in every human society”

Previous theories from philosophers, literary critics and psychologists have focused on what we laugh at, on ‘getting the joke’. “Humour cannot be explained in terms of content or subject matter. A group of individuals can respond completely differently to the same content, and so to understand humour we have to examine the structures underlying it and analyse the process by which each individual responds to them. Pattern Recognition Theory is an evolutionary and cognitive explanation of how and why an individual finds something funny. Effectively it explains that humour occurs when the brain recognizes a pattern that surprises it, and that this recognition is rewarded with the experience of the humorous response.” says Clarke.

Humour is not about comedy it is about a fundamental cognitive function. Clarke explains: “An ability to recognize patterns instantly and unconsciously has proved a fundamental weapon in the cognitive arsenal of human beings.” Recognising patterns enables us to quickly understand our environment and function effectively within it: language, which is unique to humans, is based on patterns.

Clarke’s theory has wider implications: “It sheds light on infantile cognitive development, will lead to a revision of tests on ‘humour’ to diagnose psychological or neurological conditions and will have implications regarding the development of language. It will lead to a clarification of whether other animals have a sense of humour, and has an important role to play in the production of artificial intelligence being that will feel a bit less robotic thanks to its sense of humour.”

Alastair Clarke explains: “The development of pattern recognition as displayed in humour could form the basis of humankind’s instinctive linguistic ability. Syntax and grammar function in fundamental patterns for which a child has an innate facility. All that differs from one individual to the next is the content of those patterns in terms of vocabulary.”

Pattern Recognition Theory identifies further correlation between the development of humour and the development of cognitive ability in infants. Previous research has shown that children respond to humour long before they can comprehend language or develop long-term memory. Humour is present as one of the early fundamental cognitive processes. Alastair Clarke explains: “Amusing childish games such as peek-a-boo and clap hands all exhibit the precise mechanism of humour as it appears in any adult form. Peek-a-boo can elicit a humorous response in infants as young as four months, and is, effectively, a simple process of surprise repetition, forming a clear, basic pattern. As the infant develops, the patterns in childish humour become more complex and compounded and attain spatial as well as temporal elements until, finally, the child begins to grapple with the patterns involved in linguistic humour.”

Alastair Clarke explains that the Pattern Recognition Theory “can not say categorically what is funny. The individual is of paramount importance in determining what they find amusing, bringing memories, associations, meta-meaning, disposition, their ability to recognize patterns and their comprehension of similarity to the equation. But the following two examples illustrate its basic structure. A common form of humour is the juxtaposition of two pictures, normally of people, in whom we recognize a similarity. What we are witnessing here is spatial repetition, a simple two-term pattern featuring the outline or the features of the first repeated in those of the second. If the pattern is sufficiently convincing (as in the degree to which we perceive repetition), and we are surprised by recognizing it, we will find the stimulus amusing.”

“As a second example, related to the first but in a different medium, stand-up comedy regularly features what we might call the It’s so true form of humour. As with the first example, the brain recognizes a two-term pattern of repetition between the comedian’s depiction and its retained mental image, and if the recognition is surprising, it will be found amusing. The individual may be surprised to hear such things being talked about in public, perhaps because they are taboo, or because the individual has never heard them being articulated before. The only difference between the two examples is that in the first the pattern is recognized between one photograph and the next, and in the second it occurs between the comedian’s words and the mental image retained by the individual of the matter being portrayed.”

“Both of these examples use simple patterns of exact repetition, even if the fidelity of that repetition is poor (for example if the photographs are only vaguely similar). But pattern types can be surprisingly varied, including reflection, reversal, minification and magnification and so on. Sarcasm, for example, functions around a basic pattern of reversal, otherwise known as repetition in opposites. Patterns can also contain many stages, whereas the ones depicted here feature only two terms.”

Nicola Hern | alfa
Further information:
http://www.pyrrhichouse.co.uk

Further reports about: Development Human Humour Theory fundamental infant repetition

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht What happens in the cell nucleus after fertilization
06.12.2016 | Helmholtz Zentrum München - Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt

nachricht Researchers uncover protein-based “cancer signature”
05.12.2016 | Universität Basel

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Simple processing technique could cut cost of organic PV and wearable electronics

06.12.2016 | Materials Sciences

3-D printed kidney phantoms aid nuclear medicine dosing calibration

06.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Robot on demand: Mobile machining of aircraft components with high precision

06.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>