Saturday, 24 December 2011

The Problems of Understanding Jokes

At work, one person recieved a present at the Secret Santa that had a joke attached to it. I cannot elaborate online, for the sake of people's identities. Nevertheless, this incident has helped me to explain better the two-fold difficulty of understanding jokes.

This incident helps me to explain that there is often not a one but a two-fold difficulty for someone with Aspergers to understand a joke. The first difficulty is to do with the fact the Aspergers people tend not be broad and balanced thinkers and do not have a wide general knowledge. They tend to instead go much deeper into their own favourite subject, looking into the tiny details, which can make life lonely as there is no-one who will engage with their distinct interests. It also means that whilst they may appear highly intelligent when discussing a favourite subject, they will also lack a lot of more foundational knowledge, some of which is rarely taught and expected to 'picked-up' such as many innuendos, and as a result some situation may make an Asperger's person appear 'stupid.' Often jokes are based around some assumed piece of common knowledge. If you don't have that piece of knowledge you have no chance of getting it.

The second difficulty is to do with the fact that jokes involve connecting two or more unconnected dots in the back of your mind all within an instant. Now recently I have watched a bit comedy and paid some attention to the structure of jokes I have heard. By chance I even thought of one, albeit a crude and possibly offensive one, but I found it funny, and I'll explain those dots that need connecting. Here's the joke in the format of a conversation between a mother and son.

Son. "Oh I can't stand being overweight many more, I've really got to something to lose weight."

Mother. "Well if join the Army you'll be losing large chunks off your weight when your on the front-line in Afrghanistan"

Perhaps this is both a bad constucted joke and a potentially hurtful one for wounded ex-servicemen and their families, so I apologise if I caused any offence. The joke is that if you get deployed to Afghanistan you may lose weight, by having your legs and arms blown by hitting hit by an IED. You'll lose weight but in all the wrong places!

The thing is to get such a joke you have to both be aware of what is happening in Afghanistan and then quickly remember this and connect the loss of limbs to weight loss. You have to mentally jump over a bridge in order to make sense.

Another issue with jokes is that the answer is not always logical. Here's an example of a joke that I was told has been popular recently.

Q. What is the Capital of France?

A. £2.50.

The joke is based upon the word Capital, and the answer is in relation to the current economic crisis in the eurozone. But why pick £2.50? Why not £1.50, or £3.50 - they're all small amounts of money? This is what I mean by the answer not being logical. Any small figure would do, and there's no logical reason to pick any particular number - unless one can improve upon it of course.

With all these complications in jokes I find it incredible that at least 95% of people regularly get them, and someone like myself, who is quite intelligent (at least I give off that impression) and academic, dosen't. Its like walking into a party - one of the most complicated things for the human brain to deal with, and yet somehow everyone is expected to be able to do it confidently or else look like a 'loser.'

No comments:

Post a Comment