SURPRISE! Animals Have a Sense of Humor…Sort Of

We may be the only ones to do standup or tune into standup, but are humans the only species with a sense of humor? The answer depends on how you define humor.

Believe it or not, defining “humor” has been a long-standing debate between philosophers and psychologists. Numerous theories have been presented over the years, with one of the most popular theories being the “incongruity theory” of humor—the idea that humor arises when there’s an inconsistency between what one expects to happen and what actually happens.

Using this definition, most animals do not have a sense of humor. In fact, they lack the cognitive mechanisms and networks that would allow them to recognize and process these inconsistencies. Koko, the famous western lowland gorilla, would have this capability. The clever primate understands more than 1,000 American Sign Language signs and 2,000 spoken English words—she’s also reportedly signed the word “chase” after tying her trainer’s shoelaces together.

Incongruity theory doesn’t seem to fully explain humor however—it can’t predict, for instance, how jokes with predictable punch lines are still funny. In recent years, psychologists introduced a new theory that humor arises from a benign violation or “something that threatens a person’s well-being, identity, or normative belief structure but that simultaneously seems okay.

Under this theory, various animals have “humor.” Chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans all laugh when tickled, suggesting that humor and our ability to laugh came from humans and apes. Dogs are also known to have a play face that’s suggestive of humor.

Source: Live Science

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