The Faculty of Adaptability: Humour's Contribution to Human Ingenuity

9780955936517: The Faculty of Adaptability: Humour's Contribution to Human Ingenuity
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Steve Kotler in Psychology Today ... This got me thinking about the nature of humor... After all, on the surface, there's all kinds of information that make [Michael] Beasley's joke funny... a perfect example of what British science writer Alastair Clarke has dubbed: "The Pattern Recognition Theory of Humor," a new theory in a field in need of one. Humor has always been something of a puzzle to researchers. Basic questions like its purpose and its universality have perplexed scientist for years. Author Arnold Glasow argued that laughter is "a tranquilizer with no side effects," while the political commentator Norman Cousins felt is a powerful way to tap positive emotions.' While neither of these men are psychologists their answers represent some of the earlier ideas about where humor comes from and why we use it. Robert Provine, on the other hand, spent over a decade studying the topic and later wrote in the pages of this magazine: "laughter is primarily a social vocalization that binds people together....a hidden language we all speak. It is not a learned group reaction but an instinctive behavior programmed by our genes." Clarke disagrees with all of them. In his just published theory, he had gone hunting for a global theory of laughter.' Because researchers have been interested more in what we laugh at (content) rather than mechanism, this kind of universal theory is one many thought impossible. But what Clarke realized is that laughter is just another example of our brain's pattern recognition system at work. Pattern recognition is the term cognitive neuroscientists use to describe the brain's ability to lump like with like, thus helping us to make sense of all experience. ... Over the past few years, laughter researchers have come to realize that the element of surprise was fundamental to most jokes. For example: How do you get a nun pregnant? You dress her up like an altar boy, of course. That joke is funny (unless, of course, you happen to be an alter boy) because it's surprising. The question gets us thinking in one direction-a nun's vow of celibacy-but the punchline comes from another (the Catholic church's pedophilia problem). What Clarke realized was that while most jokes are surprising, the reason they are surprising is because everyone has an inborn pattern recognition system. It is the violation of standard patterns we find funny. And this violation is a universal. This is why my wife, not a basketball fan at all, would find Michael Beasley's quip hysterical. There's a pattern. First he's 6'10 then he's 6'7 and next he's a midget. Sure, the midget comment is surprising, but the reason it's surprising is because the previous two numbers have set up a pattern that the last term violates. And, according to a recent Clarke interview, this has wider implications: "It sheds light on infantile cognitive development, will lead to a revision of tests on humor' to diagnose psychological or neurological conditions and will have implications regarding the development of language. It will lead to a clarification of whether other animals have a sense of humor, and has an important role to play in the production of artificial intelligence being that will feel a bit less robotic thanks to its sense of humor." --Steven Kotler in 'Psychology Today'

Présentation de l'éditeur :

When our species turns inward to analyze itself, the two facets of ingenuity and humour are often held in high regard as examples of its unique abilities, and this theory suggests they are more closely connected than has previously been imagined or acknowledged.

While adaptability is a necessary facet of biological evolution, its expression in human beings has become accelerated into an intellectual capacity for inventing non-genetic solutions to environmental challenges, producing a versatility and ingenuity that have come to define the species. How does this ability function, then, and what has led to its unparalleled exaggeration in the human race?

According to pattern recognition theory, this abundant resourcefulness has arisen due to the presence of a simple, hardwired faculty that exists precisely to encourage it, operating via the recognition of interesting patterns. It is familiar to all, and is known as humour.

Clarke views the experience of amusement as a creative, adaptive system that has spurred the intellectual and perceptual abilities of the human race. Unlike many alternative interpretations of humour, pattern recognition is neither corrective (as many anomaly and normalization theories would claim such as Clarke's own Information Normalization Theory), nor restricted to accelerating basic perceptual faculties, but a creative, adaptive system in its own right, encouraging the invention and discovery of new ideas and information. The book proceeds to demonstrate the scope of pattern recognition by explaining more than one hundred different sources of laughter.

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