To answer this question, it is necessary to go back in time. Humans are social animals. We need other people for friendship and intimacy or just company. And there is no better way to start a conversation than by telling a joke. It requires little preparation, costs nothing, makes us laugh and can even become the ice-breaker to start a relationship.
Jokes can also be used as part of rituals performed before, during or after prolonged periods of socialization like meals or sporting events. They lubricate social relations and make them run more smoothly. What, however, makes certain people laugh? And why does telling jokes engender such strong feelings in some people? One of the most fascinating questions in this respect is: what makes a joke funny?
What do you call a man jokes
That doesn’t mean they are not funny, though! But why do some people find them so hilarious whereas others are disgusted by them? Usually, we laugh at jokes because we expect something specific and the unexpected happens: we anticipate a question and we receive an answer; or we think someone will fall off a chair and she doesn’t. Nevertheless, some types of joke are generally less appreciated than others. For instance, children tend to laugh at different things than adults do. Jokes that involve sex or violence are rarely considered funny by children (but sometimes they can be very popular with teenagers!).
People also find jokes more pleasant if the characters depicted in it behave like they would in real life. When the characters break the conventions of social behavior, they are perceived as humorous because their behavior is unexpected. Consequently, insulting jokes are well accepted in some cultures but typically less so in others. The victim will laugh at an offensive joke if he or she can laugh at him or herself – for instance by suggesting that “It took me some time, but I finally realized that he was insulting me.”.
What is a joke, and why do people like them so much?
One of the most fascinating questions in this respect is: what makes a joke funny? Traditional theoretical approaches assume that humor is something that springs “out of nowhere.” For instance, Freud assumed that jokes enable us to release pleasure-inducing tension. According to him, people laugh at jokes because they are surprised by an outcome that is different from what they expected. And the pleasure we gain from that laugh is a release of tension.
The different types of jokes and the ones that are the funniest
In contrast, other theorists assume that the expected outcome is what triggers our laughter. In their view, people laugh at jokes because they expect one thing and receive another. For example, we anticipate a question from the speaker, but a different question comes out of his or her mouth instead. What we thought was going to happen did not and that is why we laugh: We realize that what we expected to happen didn’t.
More generally, these different theories assume that humor arises from some sort of cognitive conflict. That may be true, but recent experimental evidence suggests another perspective: People like jokes because they get the joke – because they share an understanding with the speaker. In other words, we laugh at jokes because we get them and this feeling of “getting it” is deeply satisfying and rewarding to us. We feel that we are in a special club: only people who understand what makes something funny can be part of it.
In conclusion, people like jokes because they get the joke – because they share an understanding with the speaker. In other words, we laugh at jokes because we get them and this feeling of “getting it” is deeply satisfying and rewarding to us. We feel that we are in a special club: only people who understand what makes something funny can be part of it.