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Thread: Why we laugh together and why we can't get enough of TV.

  1. #1 Why we laugh together and why we can't get enough of TV. 
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    I just wrote something on why we laugh together and why we spend so much time watching TV. My idea is that it stems from the brain's mechanism to calibrate our social do's and don'ts to those of the group that we live in.

    http://adriaanb.blogspot.com/

    Living in a group, our social emotions guide us to overcome the prisoner's dilemmas that we encounter. But because there are many kinds and levels of social rules possible, we need to constantly stay in tune with the rules followed by our group.

    The brain's way to calibrate our sensitivities with those of our group is to make us enjoy listening to social narratives, while constantly taking into account the reactions of the people surrounding us. It is these vocal reactions like laughing, booing, cheering etc. that get our social behaviour in tune with that of our group by adjusting our attitudes.

    Now that we've automated the tribal storyteller into a TV set, we still enjoy the stories but it has become a waste of time because it lacks the vocal reactions of our group. (The canned laughter like in the Seinfeld episodes is only a poor substitute.)

    Please look at the blog for a better explanation. I am trying to get some comments on this idea.
    http://adriaanb.blogspot.com/

    Adriaan


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    Forum Professor Obviously's Avatar
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    Interesting, this fits perfectly in the "Behavioral & Social Sciences" category :wink:

    I think it's a great idea though.


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  4. #3  
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    Glad you like it. I put it here on purpose, it's evolutionary biology to me.

    (or cognitive psychology, or rather evolutionary psychology..)

    I would love to hear more reactions though..
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  5. #4  
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    There is no problem with social groups until they become larger than nature intended, and that is why we have the problems you mention - the human zoo is too large.
    'Time is the space between birth and death' by me.
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    Adriaan

    Your blog (?) concluded:

    But then we changed the stone-age storyteller in front of the group, for the TV set we mostly watch on our own. People can spend hours watching almost the same storyline in soaps, comedy and drama again and again. It's their social brain that makes them do it. But without the ever changing vocal reactions of our group, it may have become a waste of time. The brain never anticipated being fooled by electronics.
    This is something I find fascinating, because I have always thought that soap operas act upon the spcial emotions in just the way that pornography does upon the sexual ones: for many people the ersatz stimulation is not just good, but even better than the real thing for being, as it were, hyper-real (impossibly pneumatic women who are impossibly available; impossibly empathetic men who are impossibly spontaneous). As a result of the effective addiction that so many have to these pastimes they may, as you point out, be re-calibrating their social and sexual meters to ever more 'extreme' scenarios (which the media/entertainment companies are happy to pander to and exaggerate in the name of 'giving the cusotmers what they want') which inevitably results in the mental equivalent of the obesity crisis we currently face in the West.

    Dunno what you think abou that, but it seems to fit in with your thesis.

    Also, have you ever read Robin Dunbar's Grooming, Gossip and the Evolution of Language? I find some of his thoughts fascinating from an evo-psych point of view, and wonder what you think. (Like many writers, he too makes a stab at claiming for his particular theory the crown of "reason for the runaway growth of the human brain", but ignore that if you like and there's still loads of good stuff there.)

    Welcome to the board!

    cheer

    shanks
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  7. #6  
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    I think soap operas deserve special treatment, because they appeal so much more to women than to men.

    I think I found out why (said the fool) and I put it in my blog as a new post. Bit long to do here now.
    adriaanb.blogspot.com
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  8. #7  
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    Have you ever tried watching a comedy TV show that normally had a "laugh tack" added on, but that had the laughtrack removed? It's really very startling how not-funny most of it suddenly becomes.
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  9. #8  
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    Interesting article, i liked it.
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