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The First Joke

Exploring the Evolutionary Origins of Humor

Anna Lisa Stump

on 5 June 2013

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Transcript of The First Joke

Joseph Polimeni Has practiced general psychiatry for more than 20 years International recognized evolutionary psychiatrist Jeffrey P. Reiss Currently researching anxiety disorders Mainly psychiatric neuroimaging research -- particularly using fMRI in the area of schizophrenia Also interested in cognition and emotional
processing in the mentioned clinical groups
It works by detecting the changes in blood oxygenation and flow that occur in response to neural activity –- when a brain area is more active it consumes more oxygen, and to meet this increased demand blood flow increases to the active area Researcher and associate professor of psychiatry at the Schulich School of Medicine at Western University, London, Ontario Researcher and Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Manitoba, Canada Lives in Winnipeg with his wife and two sons "Shamans Among Us: Schizophrenia, Shamanism, and the Evolutionary Origins of Religion" Also taught in the department of psychiatry at the University of Manitoba solving an incongruity by applying an alternative formulation to the discrepancy forms the basis of humor one element is socially normal while the other constitutes a violation of the "subjective moral order" Freud: viewed humor as a release of excessive sexual or aggressive tension expressing laughter is considered anxiety-reducing, pleasurable, and healthy first to methodically analyze humor in an evolutionary sense "Ostracism and Indirect Reciprocity: The Reproductive Significance of Humor"
-Ethology and Sociobiology 7 (1) raising one's own status,

(2) lowering the status of certain individuals, and

(3) raising the status of designated listeners and thereby enhancing camaraderie or social unit characterized humor and laughter as an extension of sudden glory eld sf Wei humor provides valuable social information to others while laughter provokes pleasurable feeling that positively reinforce the humorist Ramachandran "false alarm theory"

the main purpose of laughter is for the individual to alert others in the social group that the anomaly detected by that individual is of trivial consequence further speculates: the cognitive perspective necessary to distinguish between trivial and serious could have somehow evolved into a cognitive framework that classifies congruous and incongruous components of humor ! Womil Edward Jung "Inner Eye" Theory

laughter is a signal
that facilitates
cooperation by
transfer of
information on the
laugher's empathy
with attributed
mental states and his
sympathy levels for others Animal Models Genetics Children's
Humor Humor Neurobiology Cognitive Humor & Language

Milestones in Human Evolution

Humor and Group Size Humor in Traditional Societies Van Hooff proposed that the possible phylogenetic roots of smiling could reside in the "bared-teeth display" seen in many mammals... ...while laughter could be related to the "relaxed open-mouth display" often associated with playful activities figures teasing serves to gather information about the social environment, and to investigate authority Implications can be drawn that teasing is a novel mammalian behavior falling between aggression and peacefulness -- perhaps leading to the congruous and incongruous elements of humor proposes this ability -- to quickly manipulate multifaceted symbols in the service of even more intricate conceptualizations -- may be an essential distinguishing feature of Homo sapiens De Waal Terrence Deacon Archeology any deficit in humor perception associated with specific neuropathology has the potential to be illuminating -- most commonly associated with changes in humor -- only psychiatric condition to be systematically shown to be accompanied by humor perception deficits Clinical Depression in Pathological Conditions Epilepsy Schizophrenia -- clinical observations suggest no appreciable deficits observing the effects of various brain lesions on humor perception

fMRI studies monitoring brain activity in normal subjects while perceiving humor concluded that right frontal lobe lesions most disrupted humor appreciation HOWEVER, it was not clear whether subjects with right-sided lesions demonstrated greater general impairment most formidable problem in humor cognitive research deficits in working memory, mental shifting and verbal abstraction significantly correlated with poor humor appreciation for all subjects Shammi and Stuss (1) the integrity of humor may rely more heavily on right-hemispheric structures, and (2) the prefontal cortex seems intimately involved -- preferentially involved in the expression and comprehension of emotion -- consistently associated with higher cognitive functions; a distinguishing cerebral feature in the evolution of humankind right hemisphere prefrontal cortex Shultz viewed infant smiling as a pleasurable response to perceived mastery over a situation the re-creation of a predatory attack inherently possesses incongruous and congruous parts Darwin first to recognize that areas most vulnerable to tickling (neck, abdomen, and soles of feet) are perhaps equally the most vulnerable to predator attack Koestler framed tickling as a "mock attack" and therefore evolutionarily adaptive the genetics of multifaceted behaviors is just beginning to be systematically investigated various forms versus humor competence social status versus genetic differences ANTHROPOLOGY Mahedev Apte joking relationships in preliterate societies commonly observed between extended relatives definite customary expectations associated with most joking relationships a variety of topics are typically involved in joking relationships Mbuti Tribe The camp clown, an individual who assumes the responsibility of trying to end conflicts through ridicule, uses mime and antics to re-focus the conflict on himself, to get everyone
laughing and ridiculing, in order to divert attention from
the issue of the moment Winnie the Pooh was named after the city of Winnipeg, by a Canadian Lieutenant in the Fort Garry Horse Militia who purchased Winnipeg Bear, shortened to Winnie the Pooh, from a hunter in 1914 Humor Research Field "a serious non-serious research topic" International Society for Humor Studies (ISHS) HUMOR: International Journal of Humor Research
Allen Klein - Humor for Workplace Wellness
The Humor Project
Humor RX
Jest for the Health of It
Steve Kaplan's Comedy Intensive Seminars/Symposiums/Conferences
Annual, Bi-Annual, and Quadrennial Membership American Humor Studies Association Association for the Study of Play (TASP) International Society for Empirical Aesthetics Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor Canadian Association for Therapeutic Humor Australian Humor Studies Network Humorology: Humor Research for Students American Comedy Archives Gliner Center for Humor Communication and Health SCHOLARLY RESEARCH RESEARCH
NETWORKS PROFESSIONAL R e lie f h e y T o r Suls: Veatch: ncongruity heory Humor Richard D. Alexander Thomas Hobbes Plato Aristotle comedy:
an imitation of people who are
worse than the average laughter:
results from a feeling of pleasure at seeing others suffer the misfortune of being deluded about their own wisdom uperior ity heorie s The Greenland Inuit traditionally resolves disputes by engaging in public contests of ridiculing each other vol ut io E n ar y he ories T T S I T Incongruity Theory Many Thinkers, Few Empirics prevailing theory Relief Theory Superiority Theory Evolutionary Theory "play theory" Rod Martin An Integrative Approach" "The Psychology of Humor Department of Psychology at Western University in Ontario Paul Lewis Professor at Boston College
specializes in humor "Cracking Up" (2006) (2006) John Morreall founder, 30+ years dedicated to humor research Doni Tamblyn internationally published author & comedian
President of HumorRULES Christie Davies "The Mirth of Nations" Workshops and Resource Providers: 1998 1993 1986 1998 1972 1905/1963 2003 1972 1996 1997 & FUNCTIONAL MAGNETIC RESONANCE IMAGING (fMRI) 1872/1920 1976/1996 1964 Apte children mimicking adults in a comical manner may be universal
humor involving ridicule is always more common in children compared to adults 1985 1985 Colin Tumbull 1965 The relative ease in which humans use humor belies its considerable complexity Humor may be the most complex cognitive function in the animal kingdom Four most relevant topics to further studies: origins of language, spirituality, hominid group size, and animal teasing Further exploration may reveal roots attached to other higher cognitive functions in humankind The
the Evolutionary
Origins of Humor (2010) Mel Brooks "Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open manhole and die." generally... the integrity of humor perception is subservient to numerous cognitive skills such as working memory, long-term memory, executive functions, emotional expression and language skills Darren Campbell

Daryl Gill

Breanna Sawatzky "Diminished Humour Perception in Schizophrenia: Relationship to Social and Cognitive Functioning" Journal of Psychiatric Research 2010 Objectives ...to directly test the specificity of the previously identified humour deficit in schizophrenia using a psychiatric control group in addition to healthy controls. ...to administer a battery of wide-ranging cognitive tests and Social Functioning Scales with the hope of detecting potential associations with humour impairment. Methods and Materials Schizophrenia Group (20)
Clinical Control Group (20) - (Depression/Anxiety Disorders)
Healthy Control Group (20)
Social Functioning Scale (SFS)
developed specifically for outpatients with schizophrenia
Social Interaction Anxiety Scale (SIAS)
measures subjective anxiety during social situations
Revised Social Anhedonia Scale (RSAS)
true/false questionnaire measuring diminished pleasure derived from interpersonal interactions
Snaith-Hamilton Pleasure Scale (SHAPS)
measure present state of anhedonia
Social Adaptation Self-Evaluation Scale (SASS)
assesses level of social adjustment self-report questionnaires cognitive tests National Adult Reading Test (NART)
Wisconsin Card Sorting Test
Controlled Oral Word Association Test
category fluency test
Stroop Color-Word Test
Trail Making Test A and B (TMT-A/B)
California Verbal Learning Test-II (CVLT-II)
WAIS-III Digit Symbol-Coding
WAIS-III Picture-Arrangement
WAISS-III Similarities
WAISS-III Comprehension humour task 64 black and white single frame comics:
32 - original form
32 - humorous caption was replaced by a non-funny yet contextually relevant caption
who cares if it's funny, note if it was altered or not

4 were dropped due to ambiguity (2 altered, 2 original)

false positive (false alarm) - falsely identified as original
false negative (missed acceptances) - falsely identified as altered Results: cognitive performance comparisons anhedonia and social functioning questionnaires humour recognition humour and clinical measures cognitive correlates of humour recognition social correlates of humour recognition FAR SIDE ZIGGY BIZZARO Groups did not differ in NART performance, showed comparable performance in category fluency, a word association task (COWAT), and verbal reasoning (WAIS-III Similarities).

Word retrieval and basic verbal processing were relatively functional in the patient groups.

Patients with schizophrenia performed more poorly than both the healthy and psychiatric control groups on tests of: working memory and processing speed (WAIS-III Digit Symbol-Coding), executive function (WCST-CC), and complex cognitive functions requiring verbal comprehension, working memory, and social reasoning (WAIS-III Comprehension). The healthy participants reported significantly less subjective anxiety in their social interactions (SIAS scores), higher social functioning levels (SFS scores), and better social adjustment ratings (SASS scores) than either of the psychiatric groups.

The schizophrenia group reported better social adjustment (SASS) and less anhedonia (SHAPS) than the psychiatric control group.
This is consistent with the psychiatric control group's significantly higher levels of depression. The schizophrenia group showed significant and substantial deficits in humour recognition compared to the healthy group (P<0.001, ES=1.55)
The schizophrenia group's humour recognition performance was also poorer than that of the psychiatric control group (P=0.001)
The psychiatric control group's humour scores did not [significantly] differ from the healthy control group (P=0.23) Better humour recognition in schizophrenia correlated with less severe clinical symptomology (PANSS total score; P=0.008), and was unrelated to depressive symptoms (CDSS; P=0.4)
Humour recognition scores and use of anti psychotic medication were unrelated (P=0.9) Humour recognition in the schizophrenia group was correlated positively with general intellectual functioning (NART; P=0.04), social reasoning (WAIS-III Comprehension; P=0.01), executive functioning (WCST-CC; P=0.001).
...and did not correlate with basic processing speed (TMT A; P=0.3), working memory (WAIS-III Digit Symbol-Coding; P=0.6), inhibitory ability (TMT B; P=0.6), inhibitory control (Stroop; P=0.5), verbal memory (CVLT-II; P=0.3), flexibility in abstract thought (WCST-PE; P=0.8), speed of verbal processing (category fluency; P=0.7), or verbal fluency (COWAT; P=0.5).
...approaching significance were correlations between humour recognition and visual sequencing (WAIS-III Picture-Arrangement; P=0.06), and verbal reasoning (WAIS-III Similarities; P=0.07). In the schizophrenia group, better humour recognition correlated with higher social adjustment ratings (SASS scores; P=0.02), and less subjective anxiety in social interactions (SIAS scores; P=0.02)
...and borderline significant correlation between humour recognition and better social functioning (SFS; P=0.07), and the amount of pleasure derived from interpersonal interactions (RSAS; P=0.06)
No association was determined between humour recognition and anhedonia Conclusion Humour recognition performance in schizophrenia correlated best with social functioning scores, and with semantic cognitive tasks and WCST performance.

Conceivably, set shifting is a core executive function integral to humour and preferentially compromised in schizophrenia.

Further studies with larger samples are needed.

Neuroimaging, long-term evaluations

Include humour measure in cognitive-emotional remediation and/or pharmacological trials to better appreciate the pathophysiology and clinical significance of humour perception deficits in schizophrenia Evolutionary Psychology (2006)
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