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The Funny Brain: The Theories of Humor in Terms The Regions of Brain Involved in It

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American comedian Victor Borge rightly said “Laughter might be the shortest distance between two people”.

Laughter is a component of human experience that is universal in nature and occurs in all the cultures. It is one of the first social vocalizations in infants and the early onset in response to the actions of others suggests that it is an inborn tendency in human infants. Laughter is a reflex like physiological-behavioural response, on the other hand of the spectrum humor is understood to be a rather complex high order emotional process. “Humor is a broad term that refers to anything that people say or do that is considered funny and tends to make others laugh, as well as the mental processes that go into both creating and perceiving such an amusing stimulus, and also the affective response in the enjoyment of it”.

It is trusted that all jokes and funny occurrences have a coherent structure. Normally, the audience is taken on a path of expectation, where building of tension is a slow and gradual procedure. Towards the end a startling turn is introduced that leads to complete reinterpretation of the information that goes before the twist. The reinterpreted data which was unexpected in nature makes sense as much as the first anticipated understanding. All jokes consist of an anomaly. The punch line or the twist in the joke is viewed as the anomaly. The joke is funny only when the audience is able to comprehend the punch line. This happens only when the listener is able to see how the new interpretation of same data can lead to an anomalous ending.

Humor is an outcome of complex biological processes taking place in the brain and nervous system. In this short essay there are discussed some theories of humor highlighting the regions of brain involved in humor.

False alarm theory

The false alarm theory suggests that “the main purpose of laughter is for the individual to alert others in the social group (usually close relatives that are likely to share the same genes) that the anomaly detected by that individual is of trivial consequence.” The chuckling individual communicates that there has been an alert, that other people need not spend their assets responding to the inconsistency. For instance: If your companion tumbles from the staircase and there is blood everywhere throughout the floor and she begins crying, you will race to support her thus will the other individuals in the social gathering. Then again, if subsequent to falling your companion begins snickering, you will blast out giggling as well and along these lines giving others access the gathering realize that they need not race to her guide. The same happens when we are watching a slapstick movie like Mr. Bean, we usually not sensitive towards the injuries and the pain of the victim this is because avoid the injury of the victim because we realize that it’s solitary a motion picture and these occasions did not happen in actuality.

It is apparent that specific parts of the brain play a crucial role in humor and laughter, yet there were theories that there is no particular hardware in the mind that is principally worried about educating others in the social group that there has been a false alert. Presently with the improved innovation and the advancement of science there is clinical proof that the circuitry must be in the limbic system, since limbic system lesions and seizures can prompt wild laughter. One patient even snickered himself to death.

It is additionally demonstrated that patients with damage to insular cortex suffer from a disorder known as ‘pain asymbolia’. In this disorder people can feel the agony, however the torment does not hurt pain. This implies the nonattendance of the aversive emotional part of agony. Another amazing perception is that patients frequently report the stimulus as funny as begin giggling. These perceptions are often not considered as the ramifications of neural basis of humor. But if we look from the from the edge of ‘false alert’ hypothesis, it will it will bode well. “These patients laugh because of a disconnection between somatosensory and limbic structures so that the two key ingredients we postulated are both present: a potentially dangerous ‘anomaly’ (the sensory output signaling: pain) followed by a deflation of expectation (it doesn’t hurt after all). Perhaps the only resolution of this is to regard the pain as a false alarm and laugh”.

Same idea is utilized to clarify why individuals giggle when tickled. At the point when a grown up approaches a child, the kid is worried about the possible harm that can be caused by the adult. Just when the light contact is made the kid giggles as now the brain of the child realizes that ‘he doesn’t mean damage, he’s just playing.

Incongruity resolution theory

“A dominant theory of humor comprehension suggests that people understand humor by first perceiving some incongruity in an expression and then resolving it”. This is called the incongruity theory of humor. The confusion happens in the underlying stage however it doesn’t produce humor. Before this, presumptions are shaped by the audience dependent on the specific circumstance and as the as the story proceeds there are various incongruities that are very different from the assumptions made by the listener. At times, there is incoherence or ambiguity also. Think about the accompanying model:

O’Riley was on a trial for armed robbery. The jury turned out and declared, “not liable’, ‘brilliant’ reacted O’Riley. ‘Does that imply that I can keep the cash?’

The last part builds up an incoherence and is not the same as the common presumptions made by the audience. It demonstrates that O’Riley isn’t at all honest. The humor is evoked in this phase and the resolution of incongruity occurs. The resolution of incongruity occurs when another relationship is framed or an error in the assumption is found. The sentence “My surgeon is a butcher among doctors” is an outline of finding new importance. It is believed that “positive emotion is involved in the resolution phase of incongruity, the common feature between finding new meaning and finding a mistake”.

Scientists claim that on account of humor comprehension, amygdala plays a role in incongruity resolution. In a research, sentences that were grammatically inaccurate were introduced to the participants however these sentences did not inspire humor. Another arrangement of sentences were additionally introduced that evoked humor. They discovered that both humor and garden path (grammatically off base) sentences lead to the activation of bilateral inferior frontal gyrus and ventral striatum, yet humor explicit sentences initiations were seen in the ventromedial pre frontal cortex and bilateral amygdala-parahippocampal gyrus.

Amygdala is the framework that is utilized to distinguish and keep away from threat. It is likewise the framework engaged with the emotional evaluation. One of the essential elements of amygdala is that it functions as a relevance detector for biological stimuli such as gazes, faces and voices yet additionally it is relevance detector for verbal stimuli. Thus, relevance detection is an important capacity of amygdala and a vital capacity of the incongruity theory. “It is well known that the amygdala one of the most frequently reported neural substrates is related to positive emotion”. Therefore, by every one of these discoveries, we can reason that amygdala assumes an imperative job in humor comprehension.

Basic neural circuit

With the headway in innovation, scientists are discovering some basic neural hardware, the structures that underlie our responses. For the most part using functional magnetic resonance imaging technique (fMRI) they are finding the areas in the brain that causes our reaction to a a specific circumstance. One of the most common reaction is humor. Vinod Goel, a psychology professor at York University in Toronto wanted to study “set shifting”. For this reason, he thought examining the set shifting will be suitable with regards to humor. He believes that “to understand a joke, you must quickly readjust your frame of reference when the joke takes an unexpected turn”.

He was the first to utilize fMRI technique to study the idea of humor. He examined the brains of 14 college students. These students were made to tune in to two sorts of jokes, puns and semantic jokes that included increasingly abstract concepts. He discovered that “when the participants heard the semantic jokes, blood flow increased in their bilateral posterior temporal lobes – a region involved in semantic language processing. When the participants listened to the puns, the jokes activated their left inferior prefrontal cortex – an area involved in phonological processing”. To study and discover that whether there were some inclusive humor diversion zones in the brain, he asked the participants which jokes were amusing and which were definitely not. When he contrasted the funny jokes with the unfunny ones, he found that the funny jokes activated the medial ventral prefrontal cortex, independent of whether the jokes were semantic or phonetic.

Different explores additionally supplement Goel’s research. For instance, Allan Reiss and his colleagues in the Stanford University checked the brains of the participants while they were asked to read cartoons. The discoveries showed that the cartoons that the participants rated as funny activated prefrontal cortex and nucleus accumbens.

Neural basis for sarcartic humor

Sarcasm is a sharp form of humor. Sarcastic humor mocks by saying something absolutely inverse of what is really implied. It utilizes irony and can frequently hurt individuals. Recent studies can recognise the brain circuitry that helps us understand a sarcastic statement. Shamay-Tsoory and Rachel Tomer at the University of Haifa directed an examination about the equivalent. They theorized that the right frontal cortex is in charge of our comprehension of sarcastic humor, as right hemisphere is associated with emotional processing and the prefrontal cortex deals with social cognition.

They examined 25 participants with lesions in the prefrontal cortex, 16 with the lesions in posterior cortex and 17 participants with no lesions. The researchers presented sarcastic statements along with some neutral statement. They likewise revealed to them stories to test their capacity to demonstrate compassion and empathy. This is on the grounds that the researchers trusted that “Understanding sarcasm requires both the ability to understand the speaker’s belief about the listener’s belief and the ability to identify emotions”. The outcomes inferred that the participants with prefrontal lesions demonstrated powerlessness in understanding sarcastic statements, then again participants in the other two groups showed no such issues. Additionally, within the participants with prefrontal lesions, participants with damage in right ventromedial regions had more issues than others.

Therefore, we can reason that right frontal cortex is associated with the processing of sarcastic jokes and remarks. The harm to the ventromedial areas of the brain leads to inability in understanding social cues such as empathy, alongside issues in understanding sarcasm. The most astounding disclosure of this exploration was the relationship among people’s capacity to understand sarcasm and empathy. Shamay-Tsoory says “To detect sarcasm, irony and jokes, and to better understand what people mean when they talk, we must have empathy”

Therefore, we can reason that correct frontal cortex is associated with the preparing of snide jokes and remarks. The harm to the ventromedial zones of the cerebrum lead to powerlessness in understanding expressive gestures, for example, sympathy alongside issues in understanding mockery. The most astounding disclosure of this exploration was the relationship among individuals’ capacity to comprehend mockery and compassion. Shamay-Tsoory says ‘To identify mockery, incongruity and jokes, and to more readily comprehend what individuals mean when they talk, we should have compassion’


Hence, from this essay we can conclude that a decent sense of humor is a standout amongst the most treasured properties of an individual. It provides ease in a day, promotes harmony and friendship with our fellows, prevents burnout, provides motivation, increases the acceptance of new ideas, diffuses conflict and innocent humor increases likeability and interpersonal attraction. Various researches show that different parts of the brain are activated in response to different types of jokes and statements. Sarcastic jokes activate right frontal cortex, semantic jokes increase the blood flow in bilateral posterior temporal lobes, puns activate left inferior prefrontal cortex of the human brain. Researchers also agree that prefrontal cortex, a structure in human brain which is covers the front part of the frontal lobe plays a very important role in humor. There are other structures like amygdala and the limbic system that are involved in humor comprehension. All of these structures together lead to the processes of humor appreciation, which involves the detection and resolution of the incongruity and the feeling of mirth. Thus, a deeper understanding of the biological basis of humor is relevant for different contexts and can positively influence the well-being and prosperity of human species.

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