Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

Living Edition
| Editors: Todd K. Shackelford, Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford

Evolution of Humor, The

Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_3244-1
  • 739 Downloads

Humor can broadly be defined as verbal or non-verbal behavior which is perceived as funny and produces laughter or amusement in others (Martin 2007). Humor is integral to human interaction and is usually pleasurable to engage in (Meyer 2000), yet the explanation for why humans have evolved a sense of humor remains unresolved. Humor is complex, difficult to produce, and highly risky (Polimeni and Reiss 2006). These are qualities that might typically be associated with an adaptive trait that is integral to our survival and therefore justifies its own costly existence. However, there does not seem to be an obvious or immediate survival benefit from humor. Despite this, humor and laughter have been observed around the world suggesting a universality which is typically seen in adaptive traits. Similarly, humor and laughter appear to be innate as babies begin to laugh at the earliest stages of life (Sroufe and Wunsh 1972). Babies of 4 months of age have been observed laughing at tactile...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

References

  1. Barrett, L., Dunbar, R., & Lycett, J. (2002). Human evolutionary psychology. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Bressler, E., & Balshine, S. (2006). The influence of humor on desirability. Evolution and Human Behavior, 27(1), 29–39.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2005.06.002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bressler, E., Martin, R. A., & Balshine, S. (2006). Production and appreciation of humor as sexually selected traits. Evolution and Human Behavior, 27(2), 121–130.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2005.09.001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bryant, G. A., & Aktipis, C. A. (2014). The animal nature of spontaneous human laughter. Evolution and Human Behavior, 35(4), 327–335.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2014.03.003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bryant, G. A., Fessler, D. M. T., Fusaroli, R., Clint, E., Aarøe, L., Apicella, C. L., … Zhou, Y. (2016). Detecting affiliation in colaughter across 24 societies. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 17(17), 4682–4687.  https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1524993113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cowan, M. L., Watkins, C. D., Fraccaro, P. J., Feinberg, D. R., & Little, A. C. (2016). It’s the way he tells them (and who is listening): Men’s dominance is positively correlated with their preference for jokes told by dominant-sounding men. Evolution and Human Behavior, 37(2), 97–104.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2015.09.002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Darwin, C. (1872/1998). In: P. Ekman (Ed.), The expression of the emotions in man and animals. London: Harper Collins.Google Scholar
  8. Davila Ross, M., Owren, M. J., & Zimmermann, E. (2009). Reconstructing the evolution of laughter in great apes and humans. Current Biology, 19(13), 1106–1111.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2009.05.028.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Dezecache, G., & Dunbar, R. I. M. (2012). Sharing the joke: The size of natural laughter groups. Evolution and Human Behavior, 33(6), 775–779.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2012.07.002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dunbar, R. I. M. (2009). Why only humans have language. In R. Botha & C. Knight (Eds.), The prehistory of language (pp. 12–35). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dunbar, R. I. M. (2012). Bridging the bonding gap: The transition from primates to humans. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences, 367(1597), 1837–1846.  https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2011.0217.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  12. Gervais, M., & Wilson, D. S. (2005). The evolution and functions of laughter and humor: A synthetic approach. The Quarterly Review of Biology, 80(4), 395–430.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Greengross, G., & Miller, G. (2011). Humor ability reveals intelligence, predicts mating success, and is higher in males. Intelligence, 39(4), 188–192.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.intell.2011.03.006.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. House, J. S., Landis, K. R., & Umberson, D. (1988). Social relationships and health. Science, 241(4865), 540–545.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Kalliny, M., Cruthirds, K. W., & Minor, M. S. (2006). Differences between American, Egyptian and Lebanese humor styles: Implications for international management. International Journal of Cross Cultural Management, 6(1), 121–134.  https://doi.org/10.1177/1470595806062354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Kazarian, S. S., & Martin, R. A. (2004). Humour styles, personality, and well-being among Lebanese university students. European Journal of Personality, 18(3), 209–219.  https://doi.org/10.1002/per.505.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Li, N. P., Griskevicius, V., Durante, K. M., Jonason, P. K., Pasisz, D. J., & Aumer, K. (2009). An evolutionary perspective on humor: Sexual selection or interest indication? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 923–936.  https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167209334786.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. MacDonald, N. E., & Silverman, I. W. (1978). Smiling and laughter in infants as a function of level of arousal and cognitive evaluation. Developmental Psychology, 14(3), 235–241.  https://doi.org/10.1037/0012-1649.14.3.235.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Martin, R. A. (2007). The psychology of humor: An integrative approach. London: Elsevier Academic Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Massen, J. J. M., & Koski, S. E. (2014). Chimps of a feather sit together: Chimpanzee friendships are based on homophily in personality. Evolution and Human Behavior, 35(1), 1–8.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2013.08.008.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Meyer, J. C. (2000). Humor as a double-edged sword: Four functions of humor in communication. Retrieved from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.466.1116&rep=rep1&type=pdf
  22. Mireault, G. C., Crockenberg, S. C., Sparrow, J. E., Cousineau, K., Pettinato, C., & Woodard, K. (2015). Laughing matters: Infant humor in the context of parental affect. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 136, 30–41.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jecp.2015.03.012.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  23. Panksepp, J. (2000). The riddle of laughter: Neural and psychoevolutionary underpinnings of joy. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 9, 183–186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Polimeni, J., & Reiss, J. P. (2006). The first joke: Exploring the evolutionary origins of humor. Evolutionary psychology, 4(1), 147470490600400129.Google Scholar
  25. Provine, R. R. (2004). Laughing, tickling, and the evolution of speech and self. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 13(6), 215–218.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0963-7214.2004.00311.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Provine, R. R. (2017). Laughter as an approach to vocal evolution: The bipedal theory. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review.  https://doi.org/10.3758/s13423-016-1089-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Ramachandran, V. S. (1998). The neurology and evolution of humor, laughter, and smiling: The false alarm theory. Medical Hypotheses, 51(4), 351–354. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9824844.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Ruch, W., & Ekman, P. (2001). The expressive pattern of laughter. In A. W. Kaszniak (Ed.), Emotion qualia, and consciousness (pp. 426–443). Tokyo: World Scientific Publisher.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Sauter, D., Evans, B., Venneker, D., & Kret, M. (2018). How do babies laugh? The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 144(3), 1840–1840.  https://doi.org/10.1121/1.5068109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Seyfarth, R. M., & Cheney, D. L. (2012). The evolutionary origins of friendship. Annual Review of Psychology, 63, 153–177.  https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-psych-120710-100337.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Shimada, M., & Sueur, C. (2014). The importance of social play network for infant or juvenile wild chimpanzees at Mahale Mountains National Park, Tanzania animal ethics and Humanimalism: Semiotics and lexicology View project Droit et Ethique de l’animal View project. American Journal of Primatology.  https://doi.org/10.1002/ajp.22289.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Shultz, T. R., & Horibe, F. (1974). Development of the appreciation of verbal jokes. Developmental Psychology, 10(1), 13–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Smaldino, P. E., Flamson, T. J., & McElreath, R. (2018). The evolution of covert signaling. Scientific Reports.  https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-22926-1.
  34. Sroufe, L. A., & Wunsh, J. P. (1972). The development of laughter in the first year of life. Child Development, 43(4), 1326–1344.  https://doi.org/10.2307/1127519.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Storey, R. (2002). Humor and sexual selection. Human Nature, 14(4), 319–336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Van Hooff, J. A. R. A. M. (1972). A comparative approach to the phylogeny of laughter and smiling. In Non-verbal communication (pp. 209–241). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Vettin, J., & Todt, D. (2005). Human laughter, social play, and play vocalizations of non-human primates: An evolutionary approach. Behaviour, 142(2), 217–240.  https://doi.org/10.1163/1568539053627640.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Warren, C., & Mcgraw, A. P. (2015). Differentiating what is humorous from what is not. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.  https://doi.org/10.1037/pspi0000041.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Weisfeld, G. E., Nowak, N. T., Lucas, T., Weisfeld, C. C., Imamoğlu, E. O., Butovskaya, M., … Parkhill, M. R. (2011). Do women seek humorousness in men because it signals intelligence? A cross-cultural test. Humor – International Journal of Humor Research, 24(4), 435–462.  https://doi.org/10.1515/humr.2011.025
  40. Yip, J., & Martin, R. A. (2006). Sense of humor, emotional intelligence, and social competence. Journal of Research in Personality, 40(6), 1202–1208.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrp.2005.08.005.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Regent’s School of Psychotherapy and PsychologyRegent’s University LondonLondonUK

Section editors and affiliations

  • Valerie G. Starratt
    • 1
  1. 1.Nova Southeastern UniversityFort LauderdaleUSA