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 'Y' a protein unicorn might matter in glaucoma
23.10.2017 | Georgia Institute of Technology

nachricht Microfluidics probe 'cholesterol' of the oil industry
23.10.2017 | Rice University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Salmonella as a tumour medication

HZI researchers developed a bacterial strain that can be used in cancer therapy

Salmonellae are dangerous pathogens that enter the body via contaminated food and can cause severe infections. But these bacteria are also known to target...

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

3rd Symposium on Driving Simulation

23.10.2017 | Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Microfluidics probe 'cholesterol' of the oil industry

23.10.2017 | Life Sciences

Gamma rays will reach beyond the limits of light

23.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

The end of pneumonia? New vaccine offers hope

23.10.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>