Inside Jokes : Using Humor to Reverse-Engineer the Mind
Some things are funny -- jokes, puns, sitcoms, Charlie Chaplin, The Far Side, Malvolio with his yellow garters crossed -- but why? Why does humor exist in the first place? Why do we spend so much of our time passing on amusing anecdotes, making wisecracks, watching The Simpsons? In Inside Jokes, Matthew Hurley, Daniel Dennett, and Reginald Adams offer an evolutionary and cognitive perspective. Humor, they propose, evolved out of a computational problem that arose when our long-ago ancestors were furnished with open-ended thinking. Mother Nature -- aka natural selection -- cannot just order the brain to find and fix all our time-pressured misleaps and near-misses. She has to bribe the brain with pleasure. So we find them funny. This wired-in source of pleasure has been tickled relentlessly by humorists over the centuries, and we have become addicted to the endogenous mind candy that is humor.
- Hardback | 376 pages
- 157.48 x 231.14 x 27.94mm | 657.71g
- 04 Oct 2011
- MIT Press Ltd
- MIT Press
- Cambridge, Mass., United States
About Matthew M. Hurley
Matthew M. Hurley is currently researching teleology and agency at the Center for Research on Concepts and Cognition at Indiana University. Daniel C. Dennett is University Professor and Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy at Tufts University. He is the author of Sweet Dreams: Philosophical Obstacles to a Science of Consciousness (MIT Press) and other books. Reginald B. Adams, Jr., is Associate Professor of Psychology researching emotion and social perception at Penn State University.
"[O]ne of the most complex and sophisticated humor theories ever presented...The authors should be lauded for their thought-provoking and original work." --Evolutionary Psychology "The theory [the authors] elaborate is a detailed and sophisticated descendant of incongruity theories. ... The learned and even-handed stance adopted by [them] regarding problem cases is ... upbeat: they regard their theory as a provisional staging post, and a prompt to further empirical enquiry into these open-ended issues. On balance, that is probably the right attitude to take." -- The Times Literary Supplement " Inside Jokes is the most persuasive theory of humor in the centuries that scientists have been trying to explain why we crack up. Extra bonus: unlike most such research, which is about as funny as a root canal, Hurley's analysis is -- and I don't think I'm going out on too much of a limb here -- the funniest thing the MIT Press...has ever published (in a good way)." Sharon Begley The Daily Beast "Science advances by asking new questions, and Matthew Hurley, Daniel Dennett, and Reginald Adams raise a lot of them... Some of these questions have been asked before, but no previous attempt succeeds in answering so many so well." Walter Sinnott-Armstrong Science