I'm Funny, But Looks Aren't Everything: Humor's Role in Coping with Adversity and Maintaining Mental and Societal Health

I'm Funny, But Looks Aren't Everything: Humor's Role in Coping with Adversity and Maintaining Mental and Societal Health

Date: Sat, Sep 02, 2017 2:30 pm - 4:30 pm
Duration: 2 Hours

JeffColombeResized03Mar2017 1We are pleased to welcome back Jeff Colombe, Ph.D, as part of an occasional series of supplementary talks regarding mind in the modern world.


Smiling and laughing may have evolved from primate grimacing and shrieking to express anxiety and warn off aggressors. Stimuli that people find humorous are often incongruous, with something not quite right, and usually involve someone getting into trouble, experiencing misfortune, or being shamed or embarrassed because of their poor character traits. Aristotle and Freud proposed that humor involves a pleasurable release from socially censored thoughts, like seeing someone else in an unflattering light. Humor has been shown to allow people to process information in their lives about adversity and its negative emotional effects, lessening and even reversing these effects. It gives people a safe space to do a self-deprecating moral inventory of their own faults, and a safe space to criticize the traits and behaviors of others. It gives social groups a way to cleanse negative traits through exposure. It also gives people a way to openly deprecate themselves in order to show humility and gain acceptance by others. It provides a way for people to bond and develop social cohesion. The positive emotions triggered by humor allow increased awareness and broadened attention, and more fluency and variety of exploratory thoughts, increasing intelligence and creativity. Brain networks involved in experiences of humor involve measuring and resolving incongruities, processing reward and value, and taking another person's perspective.


Jeff Colombe has a B.S. in biomedical engineering and a Ph.D. in neurobiology, and works for a not-for-profit advising the federal government in science and technology issues in the public interest. He has over 20 years of study under teachers of Kashmir Shaivism and Dzogchen meditation.

Admission is free


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