The First Joke: Exploring the Evolutionary Origins of Humor

We explored nine possible functions of humor: 1) expressing superiority, 2) indirect expression of anger, 3) indirect expression of sexual feelings, 4) desire for approval or diverting attention from a misdeed signaling affiliation to a specific subset of individuals, 6) enhancing group cohesiveness or settling differences in a positive manner, 7) signaling to others that a discrepancy or anomaly is trivial expressing an idea that is simultaneously normal and violates a social or moral expectation play

Joseph Polimeni; Jeffrey P. Reiss


Scholarcy highlights

  • Evolutionary forces will have shaped, or at least not selected against, any phenotype that has an appreciable connection to genotype and has existed over a number of generations
  • The authors conclude that several evolutionary-related topics such as the origins of language, cognition underlying spiritual feelings, hominid group size, and primate teasing could have special relevance to the origins of humor
  • The second section will explore a number of topics which could be related to the evolution of humor – 1) animal models, 2) genetics, 3) children's humor, 4) humor in pathological conditions, 5) neurobiology, 6) humor in traditional societies, and 7) cognitive archeology
  • Humor appears to be a function of Homo sapiens' augmented social abilities and as an extension of language, could perhaps be the most complex cognitive function in the animal kingdom
  • We have reviewed the major structural and evolutionary theories of humor, in addition to a number of topics potentially relevant to deciphering the origins of humoranimal models, genetics, children's humor, humor in pathological conditions, neurobiology, humor in traditional societies and cognitive archeology
  • According to Provine women laugh 126% more than men during conversations with each other
  • A number of humankind's higher cognitive functions could well be inextricably rooted in humor's evolutionary history, making this subject worthy of further exploration

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