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Tech journalist since the dark ages. Windows Secrets, LangaList newsletter, Windows Magazine (NetGuide, Home PC), Byte, Popular Computing, yadda yadda yadda. Google me, if it matters.

This feed is mostly personal interest; it's NOT my professional writing. There's tech here, yes, but also lots of general science and some politics and weird humor thrown in.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Science of Humor

The Science of Humor
| from the i-put-a-dollar-in-a-change-machine-and-nothing-changed dept.
| posted by Soulskill on Sunday November 27, @08:20 (It's funny. Laugh.)
| with 265 comments

[0]Hugh Pickens writes "The sense of humor is a ubiquitous human trait,
yet rare or non-existent in the rest of the animal kingdom. But why do
humans have a sense of humor in the first place? Cognitive scientist (and
former programmer) Matthew Hurley says humor (or mirth, in
research-speak) is intimately linked to thinking and is a critical task
in human cognition because a sense of humor [1]keeps our brains alert for
the gaps between our quick-fire assumptions and reality. 'We think the
pleasure of humor, the emotion of mirth, is the brain's reward for
discovering its mistaken inferences,' says Hurley, co-author of Inside
Jokes: [2]Using Humor to Reverse-Engineer the Mind. With humor, the brain
doesn't just discover a false inference รข€” it almost simultaneously
recovers and corrects itself. For example, read the gag that's been voted
[3]the funniest joke in the world by American men. So why is this joke
funny? [4]Because it is misleading, containing a small, faulty assumption
that opens the door to a costly mistake. Humor is 'when you catch
yourself in an error, like looking for the glasses that happen to be on
the top of your head. You've made an assumption about the state of the
world, and you're behaving based on that assumption, but that assumption
doesn't hold at all, and you get a little chuckle.'"

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