There’s nothing like a good laugh to brighten up your day. Whether it’s a silly joke, a funny story, or a hilarious meme, humor has the power to lift our moods, reduce stress, and improve our overall well-being. But why do we find certain things funny? And what makes us laugh in the first place?
Scientists believe that humor is rooted in our evolutionary history. According to the “benign violation theory,” which was developed by Peter McGraw and Caleb Warren, we find things funny when they violate our expectations in a way that is harmless. For example, a prank that surprises us but doesn’t harm us – like a friend jumping out from behind a corner – can be funny because it’s unexpected and safe. On the other hand, things that are too safe or too dangerous aren’t as humorous.
But what about offensive humor? If humor is supposed to be benign, why do we find jokes that make fun of certain people or groups funny? The answer is complicated, as it depends on several factors. Some people may find offensive humor funny because it makes them feel superior to the target of the joke. Others may use humor as a coping mechanism to deal with difficult emotions or situations. But it’s important to remember that not everyone finds the same things funny, and what one person finds humorous may be hurtful or offensive to someone else.
Despite these complexities, humor has many demonstrable benefits for our health and well-being. A 2017 study found that laughing reduced stress and increased pain tolerance for hospital patients undergoing chemotherapy. Another study from 2011 found that watching a comedy with a friend can improve our social bonds. And researchers have also found that laughter can boost our immune systems by increasing the activity of natural killer cells, which help us fight off infections and diseases.