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Describing humor with an equation

Date:
March 15, 2011
Source:
Pyrrhic House
Summary:
A new theory of humor addresses questions of human attraction to errors and our susceptibility to ideas we know are bad for us, and summarizes it with an equation. The new theory suggests an equation for identifying the cause and level of our responses to any humorous stimuli: h = m x s.

A new theory suggests an equation for identifying the cause and level of our responses to any humorous stimuli: h = m x s.

The theory argues that human beings are more reliant for their behavioural instruction on culturally inherited information than any other species, and that the accuracy of that information is therefore of unparalleled importance. Yet the individual is exposed to the continual threats of error and deception, which can seriously affect their chances of survival and success.

To compensate, humour rewards us for seeing through misinformation that has come close to taking us in. The pleasure we get (h) is calculated by multiplying the degree of misinformation perceived (m) by the extent to which the individual is susceptible to taking it seriously (s).

Humour therefore exists to encourage us to take information apart and to reject that which is unsound and could potentially harm our prospects. Every time we laugh, we have successfully achieved this, resolving inconsistencies in the fabric of our knowledge as we do so.

"I am not attempting to claim that we each engage in an algebraic equation before we find something funny," says the author, Alastair Clarke, "but that this schematic description reflects the instantaneous reactions of the brain to potentially dangerous misinformation."

One of two contrasting theories of humour by Clarke, 'Information Normalization Theory' is due for publication in the spring.

Further information is available on the author's website: http://www.alastairclarke.net/.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Pyrrhic House. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Pyrrhic House. "Describing humor with an equation." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 March 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110315093851.htm>.
Pyrrhic House. (2011, March 15). Describing humor with an equation. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110315093851.htm
Pyrrhic House. "Describing humor with an equation." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110315093851.htm (accessed April 16, 2014).

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