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Entries in Humor (4)

Friday
May182012

Nothing Funny About Self-Deception, Researchers Say

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NORTH BRUNSWICK, N.J.) -- Everyone enjoys a good laugh now and then. Well, almost everyone, according to a Rutgers University study.

As you’ve probably discovered, there are people who just don’t see the humor in anything. Take them to a comedy club and you may as well have left them in the car because they’re just not going to crack a smile no matter what.

Rutgers anthropologists Robert Lynch and Robert Trivers claim the problem with non-laughers is that they are masters in self-deception, that is, they don’t pick up on the absurdities in life. As a result, these seemingly joyless people are missing out on what the rest of us might find hilarious.

Lynch and Trivers explain, “Humor often involves seeing something from a novel angle, with surprising and pleasing effects. But if you are practicing self-deception and blocking out certain angles, you will, when these angles are exposed, fail to see the absurdity and fail to enjoy the humor.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Apr032012

Does Humor Make You Frisky? Works for Most

Fuse/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Who knew humor could be an aphrodisiac?  A new survey finds 87 percent of men and 74 percent of women saying humorous flirtation can get them in the mood for sex.  April is National Humor Month, and in honor of the occasion, the social network Zoosk.com surveyed 700 U.S. adults about the role of humor in relationships.

Additional findings from the Zoosk.com survey:

  • 64 percent of respondents agree that besides having good chemistry a "sense of humor" is the most important quality for a successful relationship.
  • 43 percent of respondents favor a partner who has a “goofy” sense of humor, while 29 percent prefer a person with a dry or witty humor.
  • 15 percent of those polled do not care for bathroom humor, while seven percent do not like sarcasm.  Another 7 percent do not care for self-deprecating humor.
  • 59 percent of women report they’ve had their feelings hurt by a “joke gone bad” by a significant other. Only 40 percent of men have had their feelings hurt by a partner's joke that went too far.
  • 72 percent of women say if someone didn’t make them laugh on a first date, they would still give the person a second chance.
  • 87 percent of men say they would give their date a second chance if they failed to make them laugh on the first date.


Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jan312012

Study Spots Where Humor Tickles Kids' Brains

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(PALO ALTO, Calif.) -- Kids may not giggle over the awkwardness on The Office, and adults usually aren't all that tickled by Elmo, but new research shows that the same brain regions are active when both children and grown-ups find something funny.

Researchers at Stanford University have shown that the brain's network for appreciating humor develops in childhood. They studied 15 children ages 6 to 12, showing them clips from America's Funniest Home Videos, like people stumbling while skiing or running, animals doing tricks or a kid being catapulted off of an inflatable couch. To be sure the videos would be funny to kids and not just scientists, the researchers first had children of the same ages rate videos as funny or not.

While the kids were watching the videos, researchers were monitoring their brain activity using technology called functional magnetic resonance imaging.

The results, published Tuesday in the Journal of Neuroscience, showed that funny videos turned on kids' brains in two key areas -- the temporo-occipito-parietal junction, or TOPJ, an area located just above the ear, and the midbrain, an area deep inside the brain near the bottom of the skull. The fact that these areas were more active during funny videos and not just positive ones shows that these areas are distinctly part of the brain's humor network.

Dr. Allan Reiss, one of the study's authors, has researched how humor lights up adult brains, and he said the same areas that lit up when kids were laughing were also active when adults found something funny. One of the brain regions tickled by humor, the TOPJ, helps humans perceive and appreciate the unexpected things in life. Reiss said that could be one reason why humor is often cited as a major stress reliever.

"A lot of humor is setting up a joke or something funny and then giving the punch line, often going in an unexpected direction," Reiss said. "One of the reasons why a good sense of humor might serve as a means of stress reduction is that many times stress comes from incongruities in our daily lives."

The other brain region that lit up when kids viewed the funny videos, the midbrain, is the area of the brain that helps humans process rewarding feelings, which could explain why just the right joke can be a quick way to improve a bad day. The younger children in the study showed more activity in this rewarding area of the brain.

"That may well be because of the type of stimuli that we used," Reiss said. "The younger children probably found those videos funnier."

The study is the first to look at how kids' brains detect and appreciate humor. Dr. Rebecca Schrag, a child psychologist at the Healthy Steps Program at Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, N.Y., said the fact that the brain is hard-wired for humor gives humans an important tool for coping with life.

"Humor isn't just a casual thing you do at a dinner party. It has been shown to be a factor that can contribute to resilience," she said. "Being able to see the humor in stressful situations, to see the upside of things, to be able to laugh at yourself or things that are difficult has been shown to contribute to positive development."

Reiss said he hopes to learn more about how children develop senses of humor, and how that impacts their experiences in life.

"Humor is a ubiquitous part of our social lives. Clearly, children who have well-developed senses of humor and can use them appropriately often are quite successful," Reiss said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jun032011

Cancer Comedy '50/50' Takes Lighthearted Look at Heavy Diagnosis

Thomas Northcut/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- There's nothing funny about cancer.  But a sense of humor can help people handle the harrowing diagnosis.

That's the premise of 50/50, a lighthearted comedy about a heavy topic set to hit theaters this fall.

Given the 50-50 odds of beating cancer, 27-year-old Adam, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, comes to terms with a potentially terminal diagnosis -- but not without the help and hilarity of his best friend Kyle, played by Seth Rogen.

"If you were a casino game you would have the best odds," Kyle says in the movie's trailer, offering some good perspective, perhaps.  But for most young adults, cancer and the stats that come with it are terrifying.

"People want to believe in their chance to survive, and I'm not sure statistics will help with that," said Scott Bea, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor of medicine at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.

As his friends start their adult lives, Adam starts treatment.  From shaving his head with Kyle's questionable clippers to munching weed-laced macaroons with fellow chemo patients, his journey captures the joy of life amid the looming possibility of death.

"The whole point of treatment is to allow you to live," said Bea.  The challenge, he said, is finding a way to keep living.

Adam's therapist, played by Anna Kendrick, tells him that while he can't change his situation, he can change how he chooses to deal with it.  That's where humor can be therapeutic -- a good laugh can be a welcome distraction from the pain of cancer.

"Humor is thought to be a very sophisticated coping mechanism," said Bea.  "You're going to want to have times when your thoughts drift away from yourself, so you can be in the moment of life rather than calculating life and death all the time."

The movie also chronicles how cancer invades the lives of patients' families and friends.

"We are really uncomfortable with the discomfort of others," Bea said, adding that often patients feel the need to help loved ones cope with the diagnosis.  "Often people use humor to make others more comfortable with an uncomfortable situation."

Laughter may be good medicine, but how you get it depends on what makes you laugh.  The cancer-comedy combo "won't be everyone's cup of tea," Bea said.

The movie is written by Will Reiser and is based on his own battle with cancer.  Holly Prigerson, director of the Center for Psycho-oncology and Palliative Care Research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, said patients might find "comfort in knowing that others have shared the experience, that they are not alone."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio