Psychology

Must we laugh to change our mind?

What’s long, hard, and something that men are unjustifiably proud of?

If someone is Wrong™, it’s really hard to get them to change their mind. If you just tell them, by default you will come across as a rude, mean, or contemptible person. If someone is looking for critique, they might listen… but, looking at the history of humans investigating reality, most people seem to want validation (or confirmation) rather than real tests.

A negative stimuli easily trains minds to dislike whatever they’re experiencing at the time they get experience that stimuli, for example the expert telling them “no”.

If laughter turns bad situations into good ones, might it turn a negative “no” into a positive “no”? Might it be that, rather than mere sadistic inverse-empathy, it is a way to learn from someone else’s mistakes when one laughs at, for example, “Ha ha, you should’ve see their face when they slipped on the floor and their beer went everywhere!”?

However, this doesn’t help with giving someone feedback; mocking someone for their mistakes is another way to make them dislike you even when you’re correct, so it does no good to — say — make fun of Trump’s hair, Bush’s bushisms, or David Davis not knowing that Holland and Czechoslovakia are not countries: “Stop mocking us!” is the gist of the responses of the former and the latter (and in retrospect it’s remarkable that Bush took such things in his stride).

What sort of humour, if any, makes mistakes (and negative feedback) palatable? And is there any way to make them palatable without humour? Is laughter a necessary precondition to changing a mind?

“Laughing with”, rather than “laughing at”? That might work for requested feedback — “Tell me a joke about something that went wrong with $thing” — but how do you reach someone who doesn’t even realise they went wrong?

I think that’s what embarrassment is for, but what’s the border between embarrassment and the sort of resentment that Trump and Brexit ministers demonstrate (something which I don’t even have a word for)?

Jokes can certainly make you think, but do you have to be open to thinking for them to help you along, or do they work anyway if they’re done right?


And the punchline? It’s opinions: men have long-winded opinions that are hard to change and which we’re unjustifiably proud of.

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