Scientific Understanding of Consciousness
Consciousness as an Emergent Property of Thalamocortical Activity

Humor and Laughter



What makes something funny? What triggers laughter? Certain situations, either real or fictive, represented in the cognitive neural network of cortex, must stimulate the limbic system with a “shot” of dopamine.

Humor is what happens when an assumption is epistemically committed to in a mental space and then discovered to have been a mistake. (Hurley, Dennett, Adams; Inside Jokes, 121)

Humor typically involves taking someone along the garden path of expectation so that the left hemisphere constructs a story or model and then a sudden unexpected twist is introduced to generate a paradigm shift, i.e. a completely new model is invoked to explain the same data. (Ramachandran; Illusions of Body Image, 53)

In any joke or humorous incident, you narrate a story step-by-step, leading the listener along the garden path of expectation, and then introduce an unexpected twist, a punch line, the comprehension of which requires a complete reinterpretation of the preceding events. But that's not enough. The extra key ingredient is that the new interpretation must be inconsequential. (Ramachandran; Tell-Tale Brain, 38)

The twist in the humor episode has to be a novel but inconsequential.  Thus, we may regard humor as a response to inconsequential anomaly. (Ramachandran; Illusions of Body Image, 53)

Puns are actually the opposite of metaphor. A metaphor exploits a surface-level similarity to reveal a deep hidden connection. A pun is a surface-level similarity that masquerades as a deep one -- hence its comic appeal. (Ramachandran; Tell-Tale Brain, 106)

Why and how humor evolved is a mystery. (Ramachandran; Tell-Tale Brain, 38)


Right Hemisphere Provides Functionality for Humor

Right hemisphere determines the emotional state of speakers from their tone, and also is responsible for allowing us to understand metaphor and humor. (Ratey; User's Guide to Brain, 275)

Right hemisphere appreciates the whole picture and can thus see when you switch sense of meaning, which is the basis for most humor. (Ratey; User's Guide to Brain, 275)

After a right hemisphere stroke, patients have difficulty using and understanding figures of speech, tones of voice, humor, and expressions of feeling. (Ratey; User's Guide to Brain, 275)

Laughter May Be Nature’s False Alarm Signal

Laughter -- and its cognitive companion, humor -- is a universal trait present in all cultures. (Ramachandran; Tell-Tale Brain, 38)

Laughter begets laughter. “Smile, and the whole world smiles with you.”

Laughter may be nature's 'false alarm' signal. By laughing you inform people in the vicinity not to waste their resources rushing to an unfortunate victims aid. It is nature’s "all's okay" signal. (Ramachandran; Tell-Tale Brain, 39)



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