Why laugh at us when someone falls or stumbles?

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You should you rush to help a friend who has just spread it out all along, and that would have been so wrong. However, you can’t help but laugh at the sight of this spectacle preposterous. Don’t worry, you are not inherently bad, we demonstrated a study on brain activity in the face of the comic scenes or burlesque.

By Andrea Ostojic

You have been invited to the wedding of a couple friends. Leaving the town hall, the bride takes her feet in her dress, misses a step and falls miserably on the floor. You are then taken(e) with laughter irresistible. OK, this is not funny… But, in fact, though, this is hilarious ! See a person make a fool of himself while doing evil should rather elicit our empathy. So, why this type of situation gives us-t-it for a laugh ? Why are we so wicked ? Italian researchers, who have their own idea about the issue, have conducted an experiment to learn more.

The study

They asked 30 students to view 210 photos with people in the process of breaking the figure or other situations a little burlesque. There were 3 types of pictures : pictures where the faces of the people expressing of suffering or of anger ; the pictures on which the people had an air of nonplussed ; and, finally, photos where we could not distinguish the expression of the face. 20 pictures of landscapes that have been incorporated into this series. The participants were asked to view 230 photos, and press a button when there appeared to be a landscape photo (the purpose of this task is to get them to look at all the pictures without anyone knowing what was the purpose of the experiment). During exercise, the electrical activity of their brain was recorded. They were then asked to rate the degree of humor of each picture.

Results : the expression’s bewildered face amuses us

The photos showing people who had an air of bemused were found to be more funny than the ones where the people had the air to suffer or to be angry, and more funny as well as photos in which the expression of the face was not visible. The data collected by electroencephalography seem to confirm that it is the expression of the face on the photos, which triggers a sensation of fun.

Conclusion : we laugh at the incongruity, not the suffering

When we see someone break the figure, one of the main elements that trigger our hilarity would therefore be the expression that appears on the face of the unfortunate individual. If her face shows the suffering, we will feel empathy and will therefore not amused by his situation. If, on the other hand, it has an air of bemused, nonplussed, we want to laugh. This could be explained by a theory according to which everything that makes us laugh comes from incongruity, that is to say, the simultaneous presence of 2 items that do not go together : here, there is an incongruity between the situation (a fall without gravity) and the expression of the face (an air of bemused-like, at the level of the gaze, to the fear). The next time you stumbles in the street, don’t forget to grimace in pain : you receive in passers-by of empathy rather than mockery.