The Psychology of Comedy: Science Behind Laugh

The Psychology of Comedy

Comedy is one of the most fascinating and awe-inspiring aspects of human existence. People have been laughing ever since the beginning of time, and every culture has their own preferences when it comes to comedy. But what exactly is it about humor that makes us laugh? What is the psychology behind comedy? In this article, we will explore the science behind why we laugh, what causes us to find certain things funny and the benefits of laughter.

What is Comedy?

Before delving into the psychology of comedy, it’s important to understand what comedy actually is. Comedy is simply a form of entertainment that aims to make people laugh or feel amused. There are different genres of comedy, such as sitcoms, stand-up comedy, slapstick, satire and many more, each with its own unique appeal. However, regardless of the genre, at its core, comedy is all about eliciting laughter, which is why humor is often referred to as “the best medicine”.

What Causes Us to Laugh?

The ability to laugh is innate in all humans. We start laughing as babies, and oftentimes, infants find the most mundane things hilarious. But what is it about certain things that make us laugh, and why does humor vary so much from person to person?

One of the reasons why humor is so subjective is because everyone has their own unique experiences and perspectives that shape their preferences. What one person finds funny or amusing might not be funny to someone else. This is why jokes that work with one crowd might not work with another, and why comedians tailor their material to suit their audience.

Apart from personal preferences, there are certain factors that can make something universally funny. For instance, surprise is one element that most humor seems to share. When we encounter a punchline that is unexpected, we naturally laugh because of the pleasant surprise we experience. This is the reason why the element of surprise is so prevalent in many comedic genres, especially in stand-up comedy.

In addition to surprise, situations, and events that are outside of our control are also a common source of humor. This is why observational humor is so popular – we can all relate to things like getting stuck in traffic, dealing with challenging co-workers, or any other common difficult situation.

The Psychology Behind Comedy

The psychology behind why we find things funny is a fascinating area of study. According to the Superiority Theory, one of the oldest theories of humor, we laugh at things that make us feel superior to others. For example, we might find it funny when someone makes a careless mistake, as it makes us feel better about ourselves by comparison.

The Incongruity Theory is another well-known theory of humor that suggests that we find things amusing when they violate our expectations or preconceived notions. This theory explains why puns and other “dad jokes” are often so funny – the punchline plays on the unexpected contrast of two seemingly unrelated concepts. Similarly, humorous exaggeration, understatement, and even irony all rely on the principle of incongruity that is unexpected based on what the audience assumes will happen.

Finally, the Benign Violation Theory is a newer addition to the field of psychology that combines the best of both theories above. It suggests that we find things funny when they are both surprising and harmless. This theory posits that when something violates our expectations, but doesn’t harm us, it becomes funny.

Another academic approach to the psychology of comedy focuses on the motivation for making jokes. One theory is the Relief Theory, which suggests that humor can serve as a release valve for the tension and stress we experience in our daily life. By creating a surprising or unexpected situation, humor allows us to approach an otherwise stressful encounter in a lighthearted way, decreasing the negative emotions that may arise.

The Social Functions of Comedy

Apart from providing entertainment and amusement, humor also serves important social functions. For example, laughter can be used as a way of enhancing group cohesion and strengthening social bonds. When we laugh with others, we feel closer to them, and we are more likely to trust them.

Humor is also a powerful tool for promoting empathy and understanding. By highlighting the absurdities and contradictions of the world around us, humor can help us to see things from different perspectives and challenge our own beliefs.

Benefits of Laughter

The benefits of laughter have been studied extensively by researchers in psychology, medicine, and neuroscience. Some of the positive effects of laughter include:

– Reduced stress levels
– Lowered blood pressure
– Boosted immune system
– Improved mood and energy
– Enhanced social connections

In fact, studies have shown that laughter can even have physical health benefits, such as improving circulation, strengthening the heart, and reducing pain.


In summary, comedy is an essential aspect of human existence that has been studied extensively by researchers in psychology, neuroscience, and other fields.

While everyone has their own unique preferences when it comes to humor, there are certain factors that make something universally funny, such as surprise and unexpectedness.

The psychology of comedy is a fascinating area of study that can help us to better understand the benefits of laughter and the social functions of humor.

Whether we are watching a comedy show, telling a joke to a friend, or just sharing a laugh with loved ones, humor is an essential part of our lives that helps us to connect with others and find joy in the world around us.   

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