What is the evolutionary advantage of humor and laughter?

Not sure which forum this belongs in, but I was wondering why we are capable of feeling that something is funny. I believe humans are the only animal that have a sense of humor. Is this just a by product of our brains or is there an evolutionary advantage to it?

In my opinion, it’s a matter of survival.

Otherwise, I’d be taking the long sleep… but not before I sent a few bastards ahead of me.

Really curious to see some actual answers. My guess, it’s got a lot to do with desireable social/group behaviour. Nobody likes a depressing caveman hanging around the campsite and bringing everybody down with how cooking meat over a fire is carcinogenic or that mammoth is really high in colesterol.

Women always say a sense of humor is a very attractive thing.

Because otherwise we would all be dead from stress?

We are by far not the only creatures with a sense of humor. Apes laugh, cetaceans laugh and play, otters play, etc. My cats have eeeeevil senses of humor. I think it is a natural outgrowth of brain size and development. The more connections your brain has, the more likely you are to have a sense of humor. (Make your own joke about Republicans/Democrats/group of choice here.) :smiley:

Human behavior is more than the sum of our genes. Many aspects of our intelligence are emergent properties of our complex brains, rather than under direct (or even indirect) genetic control. As such, it is highly unlikely that something such as “humor” is even visible to natural selection, much less hereditary.

Ergo, no, there is no evolutionary advantage. Social and cultural, perhaps. Humor is likely to be a coping mechanism, more than anything else (and, of course, specific coping mechanisms vary from individual to individual). However, it is again our complex brain structure which necessitates coping behaviors in the first place.

*Laughing is a sign of comfort/lack of immediate threat.
*Something that makes you laugh strikes your mind in an intimate way–it is an unexpected twist on something you already have knowledge of.
*Humor, then, is an intimate thing that implies shared understanding and which takes place in a non-threatening environment.
*The comedian is able to convince others that

  1. the current situation is not dangerous
  2. he shares the perceptions of his audience on an intimate level
  3. Hi Opal!
  4. He is, therefore, “One of you” so you don’t smack him upside the head with the assbone of a giraffe. Court jester gets to operate under the assumption that he is non-threatening–anyone else juggles eggs off the king’s head spends time on the dungeon.

One who can successfully assume the role of the comedian will survive encounters with strangers because he is not perceived as a threat; and get laid frequently for the same reason. Getting laid frequently is more conducive to making viable offspring than, say, getting smacked upside the head with the assbone of a giraffe.

I read recently that every culture also seems to value eloquence. Perhaps a quick verbal wit in humor demonstrates quickwittedness in other situations, and therefore is a symptom (not a cause) of survivability? And perhaps people like to choose mates who evidence an ability to survive?

WAG here.

Making more offspring is necessary, but not sufficient, for natural selection (and, therefore, any possibility for “evolutionary advantage”) to occur. The trait in question must also be heritable, and differential reproduction must be largely attributable to that trait.

Besides, most comedians are always complaining about their lack of sex…

Isn’t it one of those group reactions, like when one person in a group yawns everyone else tends to so they sleep together instead of dropping off one by one.
If a situation has been analysed and is found to be safe after all, laughing lets everyone else in your group know its cool and you can all chill instead of overdosing on adrenaline :wink:

I’ve read studies on it. Evidently there are two forces at work.

One is a social ranking method. You know how big horned beasts bash into each other to find out who is the alpha male? Big brained beasts do the same thing. Some smiles and laughters are supposed to be the exact same as monkey grimaces and hoots to indicate “you win, you got me, I acknowledge your superiority on that point.”

The other force I forgot. I wish I could find those articles again.

And laughter releases endorphins that are good for you. Don’t know if that has anything to do with it.

Not genetic? How’d I inherit my father’s sense of humor, then, Mr. Smarty-Pants Darwin’s Finch? :wink: