Humor, laughter, and self-deception (ROBERT TRIVERS)

Humor, laughter, and self-deception (ROBERT TRIVERS)

One striking discovery is that humor and laughter appear to be positively associated with immune benefits. Humor in turn can be seen as anti-self-deception. Humor is often directed at drawing attention to the contradictions that deceit and self-deception may be hiding. These are seen as humorous. Reversals of fortune associated with showing off—usually entrained by self-deception— are often comical to onlookers. A staple of silent films is the man strutting down the street, dressed to the nines, showing off, with head held high—so that he does not see the banana peel underneath him, producing an almost perfect visual metaphor for self-deception. The organism is directing its behavior toward others, with an upward gaze that causes him to pay no attention to the surface on which he is actually walking. Result: cartwheel and complete loss of bodily control, of the strut, of the head held high, and of the well-presented clothes—the whole show destroyed by a single contradiction.

Those who are low in self-deception (as judged by a classic paper-and pencil test) appreciate humor more (as measured by actual facial movements in response to comedic material) than do those high in self-deception. At the same time, those with greater implicit biases toward black people or toward traditional sex roles laugh more in response to racially and sexually charged humor than do those with less implicit biases. Is it possible that the greater internal contradiction in them is released by appropriate humor on the subject, resulting in greater laughter?

Laughter is an ancient mammalian trait, found in rats as well as chimpanzees. Tickling a rat will produce laughter-like sounds, and the rats will seek out the pleasure of being tickled. Chimpanzees will pant-laugh when being chased, an action that signals that the chase is not aggressive or aversive. Humor permits discussion of taboo topics and the views of disempowered groups. Also, people know self-deception is negative and costly but necessary, so humor permits us to bring out this truth for enjoyment and consumption—we are all self-deceivers. Humor permits a kind of societal level criticism in which no one need be threatened—it is all just a joke.

 

 

 

 

The folly of fools : the logic of deceit and self-deception in human life
Robert Trivers

 

Εικόνα B:Bill Murray | http://d1marr3m5x4iac.cloudfront.net/images/original/I0-001/017/214/425-5.jpeg_/bill-murray-25.jpeg



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