Can Animals Take A Joke

A while back I questioned whether or not animals could laugh and cry? Research indicates they can — but with reservation. Some behaviorists indicate animals have a difficult time with the “incongruity theory.” This is the supposition that humor becomes evident when a being reacts to the inconsistency between what one expects to happen and what actually does happen.

So today, we're going to take a bit deeper dive on this topic pondering the question whether or not animals have a sense of humor?

Tickling

Reaction to tickling is evident with out closest cousins. Psychologist Marina Davila-Ross of the University of Portsmouth in the UK taped digital recordings of tickle-induced panting from chimps, bonobos, gorillas and orangutans with human laughter. She found that the vocal similarities were most evident.

According to Peter McGraw and Joel Warner at Slate, “Chimps and bonobos, our closest relatives, boast the most laughter-like kind of panting, while the noises of gorillas, further down our family tree, sound less like laughing. And orangutans, our truly distant cousins, pant in a most primitive way.”

Neoteny

Netony is the retention of adult animals to exhibit juvenile antics. We often associate such behavior with our uninhibited dogs. Many pet owners raise their dogs in a way they don't totally mature. They encourage them to retain their “puppy” sensibility. This type of treatment also reinforces the unconditional bond that forms between pet owners and their dogs.

So, when they frolic similarly to when they were younger, we interpret such playful behaviors as their sense of humor. 

Charles Darwin

Perhaps the first scientific theorist to suggest that dogs had a sense of humor was Charles Darwin. In tandem with his ground-breaking theories of evolution, a little known fact is he also explored emotions in animals and humans in an attempt to discern parallels and similarities. It so doing, he concluded dogs do have a sense of humor which is most prominent when they are playing games, such as fetch. In the 1872 edition of The Descent of Man, he writes:

“Dogs show what may be fairly called a sense of humor, as distinct from mere play; if a bit of stick or other such object be thrown to one, he will often carry it away for a short distance; and then squatting down with it on the ground close before him, will wait until his master comes quite close to take it away. The dog will then seize it and rush away in triumph, repeating the same maneuver, and evidently enjoying the practical joke.”

Parrot are real jokesters . . .

In addition to imitating human sounds and having a sizeable vocabulary, many believe parrots have a true sense of humor — and most of their owners would agree. Differing slightly from some other species, however, a parrot's sense humor is based on practical jokes.

In fact, if you scour YouTube, you may find dozens of videos that show these feathery creatures playing tricks, like calling out a dog's name many times and having a good laugh for no reason. Recently, a captive African gray parrot, N'kisi, shot to fame when his cognitive ability (that included an impressive 950 words) and a knack of delivering a punchline appropriately versus by rote memory. This type of behavior totally nullifies the preconceived idea about 'parroting' versus understanding the lines these birds are delivering.

Neoteny

Netony is the retention of adult animals to exhibit juvenile antics. We often associate such behavior with our uninhibited dogs. Many pet owners raise their dogs in a way they don't totally mature. They encourage them to retain their “puppy” sensibility. This type of treatment also reinforces the unconditional bond that forms between pet owners and their dogs. So, when they frolic similarly to when they were younger, we interpret such playful behaviors as their sense of humor. 

Whether animals have a sense of humor was the focus of a recent Laboratory Animal Refinement & Enrichment Forum (LAREF) discussion. Certainly the juveniles of many animal species exhibit playful behavior. Anyone who has spent time around dogs, chimps and birds can attest to the fact that having fun doesn’t necessarily end when an animal reaches adulthood. In fact, many adult animals in research facilities are given toys in an effort to stave off boredom. And as we all know, a good laugh is most often, the best medicine. Perhaps the animal kingdom is trying to remind us humans of that fact.

Primary Source: New Scientist

 

 

 

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