Thursday, August 12, 2010

"Scientists 'discover' the secret of humor"

The news has been spreading around the Internet...humor has now been explained! Well, maybe not quite, but an interesting study in the journal Psychological Science sort of explains why we (well, a lot of us) find Seinfeld funny. Humor "stems from a benign violation of the way the world ought to be..." according to a summary of the study in The Telegraph. So, it's not much of a leap, in fact none at all, to link this finding to a key concept in social thinking instruction (see Michelle Garcia Winner's work). Some humor, at least, results from witnessing Unexpected Behaviors! Thanks to Larry Ferlazzo, among others, for posting the link to this article.

There are some clinical implications to this finding that support what many of us already do. First of all, I interpret this to mean that a humorous approach to "pragmatics" treatment, in which everyone has fun and most "mistakes" are addressed lightheartedly rather than with a "THAT WAS INAPPROPRIATE" just more like life, and facilitates learning. I also think this finding suggests that using humorous material, comics, perhaps, or video, is a good way to teach expected vs. unexpected behaviors, and the question "What makes this funny?" is likely a good prompt to elicit that kind of determination from your students.

One of my favorites, Mr. Bean, who always behaves in a pretty unexpected manner...

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