Archive for October, 2010

Fun

October 18, 2010

“Humour is no laughing matter.”
Frigyes Karinthy

Science can tackle almost all aspects of our world successfully, from why distant clusters of galaxies appear to have a funny shape to why people are pushing and shoving around an airport baggage carousel.

But science doesn’t quite work when applied to the subject of comedy.

A man goes to the supermarket once a week and buys a dead chicken. But before cooking the chicken, he has sexual intercourse with it. Then he cooks the chicken and eats it.

Using a chicken carcass for masturbatory purposes violates widely held moral norms concerning bestiality and necrophilia. Consequently, most people are disgusted by this behavior and consider it wrong (Haidt et al., 1993). However, for several reasons, the behavior can simultaneously seem benign and thus be amusing.

First, it is harmless—after all, the chicken was already dead—and therefore acceptable according to a moral norm based on harm (Haidt et al., 1993). Second, as unlikely as it may seem, some people may not be strongly committed to the violated sexual norms (Haidt & Hersh, 2001). Third, the scenario seems hypothetical and thus psychologically distant.

The benign-violation hypothesis predicts that people who see the behavior as both a violation and benign will be amused. Those who do not simultaneously see both
interpretations will not be amused.

It just doesn’t, I’m telling you.

(source: Benign Violations : Making Immoral Behavior Funny)

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