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Humor: What Your Humor Style Says About You Today and the Future AI Humor Agent

Humor: What Your Humor Style Says About You Today and the Future AI Humor Agent

Your humor style says a lot about you. A sense of humor means getting and giving a laugh—a truly human quality. Having a sense of humor is important enough that it’s a trait sought in candidates applying for one of the most serious jobs on earth (or off): NASA Astronaut. Humor, researchers contend, is correlated to many positive qualities: a love of learning, optimism, wisdom, resilience, gratitude, intimacy, and the ability to manage and reduce stress. Imagine being confined to a small spaceship with just a few other astronauts for several months and you begin to understand how humor would be critical to surviving the stress. In short, a sense of humor makes you feel good and brings others together, outcomes that are positive and healthy for us. But the style of humor is important too. There are four basic humor styles—two of them bring out the best in us, while the other two are often not as funny to everyone concerned. Being aware of the way we use humor and the way others use it says a lot about how we think, who we are, and how others see us. Here are the four styles, how to identify them, and how one day we will have help to teach us how to make our humor even more effective.

Humor style says a lot about a person. Having a sense of humor means getting and giving a laugh—a truly human quality. Having a sense of humor is important enough that it’s a trait sought in candidates applying for one of the most serious jobs on earth (or off): NASA Astronaut. Humor, researchers contend, is correlated to many positive qualities: a love of learning, optimism, wisdom, resilience, seeking stress reduction, gaining intimacy, and gratitude. Imagined being confined in a small spaceship with just a few other astronauts for several months and you can imagine how humor will be critical for stress-survival. In short, a sense of humor makes you feel good and brings others together, outcomes that are positive and healthy for us. But not just any kind of humor counts. There are four basic humor styles—two of them bring out the best in us, and the other two are not so funny. Being aware of the way we use humor and the way others use it says a lot about how we think, who we are, and how others see us. Here are the four styles, how to identify them, and how one day we will have help to teach us how to make our humor even more effective.

The four styles of humor are easy to see—we see them daily. More importantly, understanding the four styles can help choose the kind of humor you practice. Because it’s not about the laughter that matters most, it’s the way you go about getting a laugh. Here are the four basic humorous styles: Affiliative, Self-Enhancing, Aggressive, and Self-Defeating humor. Affiliative humor is a social ice-breaker, like making a joke at no one’s expense, engaging, and fun for all—Affiliative humor is an all-in-one stress-reliever and social glue. Self-Enhancing engages in self-laughing: telling a story about a personal mistake that shows how you persevered, coped, and perhaps became a little better from it but not in a boastful way yet stories we enjoy and with which we sometimes identify. Both affiliative and self-enhancing humor are intelligent styles of humor, humor that connects us and serves to support our better angels. Then there are two other kinds of humor. Aggressive humor, a humor that puts others down, has ridicule at its core. Think of a bully or high-ranking official who smirks about others to get a laugh at their expense—with laughter that arises from his supporters. Does the laugh we give to a bully’s humor say something about him or us? Self-defeating humor is humor that puts down oneself; while this may sound humble, too much of it is self-pity draped in humor’s clothing and victimhood. Aggressive humor and self-defeating humor are filled with contempt and sorrow.

You have the power to choose how you act and that includes your choice in your taste of humor. Observe your humor. Listen to that of others. If you’d like to take a scientifically validated test of your humor (a study by Rod Martin, Rod Martin—formerly of the University of Western Ontario), take the Humor Styles Questionnaire published in the Journal of Research in Personality. You can find it here: https://www.thecut.com/article/whats-your-humor-style.html

Each day I am reminded of the kind of sense of humor I want to have—and not have. In my commitment to developing a healthy lifestyle, I attend a local gym. Though my body says to stay in bed, especially at 5:30 a.m. and now when dawn is getting later each morning, I crawl out and, with minimal grumbling, push myself to go out the door to my (very) early Pilates class.

Getting there is met by mostly cheery people who, like me, are still waking up. But the challenge each morning there is to walk by a small group of smirks who hang out near the coffee pots, available to us early risers: you can hear them jeer at others who are quietly succeeding in life, scoff at anyone in range who may not be of their political leaning and are in general miserable but generous in doling out their aggressive humor for all others to hear. If we are judged by our company, the key lesson here is to carefully choose your company that exercises an intelligent sense of humor. Determined to get a hot cup of java, I have to go by them. But I don’t listen and remind myself to choose differently: my humor will get me through them and other things: like surviving the Pilates class and other unexpected challenges through the day.

In the future, we will have a humor coach. Perhaps you have one now, usually another person, who gives you feedback on what you say, how to say it, and how to tell the story better. But I envision something else that will help us. It will be an artificially intelligent (AI) humor agent, not a droid, like C3-PO, though I’d like to have him around and banter with him. This AI agent will engage with us to listen to our humor style (if asked to), make suggestions on how to make us more engaging (maybe we take too much time to tell the story and get to the punchline), and how to be appealing using affiliative and self-enhancing humor intelligently. Humor that is smirking and ridiculing is not intelligent or healthy for us. The AI agent for humor will coach us in other ways too, as it curates information about us, suggesting ways to be empathic, caring, respectful, and inclusive of others. How do I know this AI agent will be a reality one day? I am part of a team developing one now, called ‘Kodii’. As a result of helping us aspire to communicating in positive ways, Kodii will help feel more connected to the people in our lives that matter most: close friends, friends we want to develop a closer relationship to, family members.

Humor. It will help you live longer. Observe and choose your humor style—seriously.

Can Imagination Bring Out the Real You?

Can Imagination Bring Out the Real You?

VR in THE VOID Presents New Sensations, Thoughts, Actions — Was That a Game or the Real Me?

Until last month, my virtual reality (VR) headset experiences were fantastic and the immersion impressive: I cruised Mars, flew to the Moon, swam with whales in the seas (on earth), and plied a wand to slice away invading objects. Each elicited a strong “Wow!” and “You’ve got to see this!” from me to anyone nearby, laughing at my gyrations. So, armed with my repertoire of past headset engagements I felt ready to step it up and go to THE VOID, a location-based experience offering immersive VR episodes of non-stop action. Intrigued that an experience promises so great an impact that it requires release forms, I go in and sign up, family in tow.

THE VOID is a place that provides virtual reality that instantly awakens your senses, blurring the lines of what is imaginary from what is real. We opted to experience THE VOID’s “Secrets of the Empire.” As a participant who became fully immersed in the action, the “Secrets of the Empire” game is much more than a game. Like the hero in the popular Sci-Fi novel, Ender’s Game, an experience in THE VOID can also reveal things you may not have known about yourself. At least, that’s what it did for me.

The goal of “Secrets of the Empire” is to capture (steal) information important to the success of the Rebellion, the good guys in Star Wars. (If you are not acquainted with any Star Wars episodes some of the following remarks will not make sense to you–but you’re missing great movies!) My husband, Jim and daughter, Annie, who it’s necessary to mention both tower over me, and I, were joined by another young participant to round out a full group of four players. Steve, a 12-year-old boy, admitted that he was back for the third time to do battle in this VR game. I smiled, saying that as a pilot I hoped to fly the Millennium Falcon–Steve sighed and rolled his eyes. We were shuffled into a small room of dark walls. Along the walls was our gear: helmet with VR apparatus and a shield, both of significant heft. Our orientation consisted of the goal to fight the Empire and take the needed information. Then I was told to take a gun.

A gun? I knew nothing of machine guns. “Can we practice first?” I asked. “Where’s the Falcon?”
“Go with it, Mom,” I heard. I looked around for the Falcon. I look down at my weapon. Couldn’t it have been a small phaser? The kind Captain Janeway uses on rare occasions in “Star Trek Voyager” episodes? But that’s a different story (the episodes of “Star Trek”, in case you’re new to all this, are different from those of “Star Wars”, with another cast of cosmic characters and set of galactic locations. I love them both.)

“How long is this game again?” I asked. Too late. The virtual doors opened. Stormtroopers marched about in the distance, protecting their base. They turned. Virtual bullets began to fly.

“I’m hit!” said Jim. “It stings!”

“Are you hurt?” I called. Hit? Stinging bullets? How do I play? Is this playing?

I hid behind a pillar for protection like fighters do in movies. They all use a cover. The pillar seemed real enough. Our suits however were not a good cover: We were in white Trooper uniforms, which is great for Halloween, but a bummer when angry Empire fighters could see us as very visible impostors. “Get down!” I yelled to Jim who kept calling out that he’d been hit. I peaked around to a view filled with Empire Troopers, Starfighters and–bad guys everywhere. I pulled back behind the pillar.

“Shoot!” came a young voice. Steve? A young child. Perhaps needing assistance. “Shoot!” He must live, I thought, and I must protect him. I started shooting. Wildly.

Before long, sweat started dripping down my neck. A few Troopers seemed to fall from the cascade of whatever it was coming from my gun. I cheered.

“Ahh, I’m hit. Look right!” called Steve, the experienced one. Was he falling down or just crouching? Nothing seemed coordinated: not my team, not our roles, not the approach to the problem. Against my better judgement and with no time for a plan, instincts took over.

“I got it, Steve!” I said and stepped in front of him, firing at anything that moved, right or left. “Are you alright, Steve?” Annie is not in sight. “Annie! Where are you?” Adding to my frustration, I wasn’t able to keep track of my team’s condition and my helmet was fogging up.

My sense of who I think I really am, even though dressed in Trooper attire, was still at my core. Though not an advocate of warfare, violence, or destruction, I am an advocate of my family and children. Of the Force. My duty was to protect and defend them. I did not want them hurt. I know I’m competitive when it comes to sports, but was this really only a game? It felt very real.

Little did I know that the other three had been doing quite well, at least measured by the number of Troopers they downed. On the other hand, I hadn’t fared so well: I took out hardly any of them–but not for lack of trying. I was just really inept. I would have never been really recruited by the Force. Unless, of course, they were desperate that day and had to take (virtually) anyone.

The final battle awaited. This one featured none other than Darth Vader himself. Exhausted, I turned to see his looming figure, most feared in all the Galaxy. In a voice deep and as dark as a nightmare, he told us that we had met our end. Our end? Looking down over the edge of the platform I stood on, just inches from my feet, was the floor of a vast hangar and Troopers preparing the fleet of the Empire for the next battle. There was nowhere for me to go and no other choice: I must protect my family. I must help Steve. The Rebellion. This cannot be the end.

I looked over at Vader with rage. Our end! “We’ll see about that, you bastard!” Firing up and down hoping to make a difference somewhere on him, I gave him all I had. Then, he’s gone. The battle was over. Relieved. I smiled for the first time, until I remembered I swore in front of Steve and felt sorry about it. My heart was pounding and I ached from suit fatigue. In a blink of an eye, we found ourselves back in the small dark room where we started.

I’ve never felt anything so virtual but so real. THE VOID is the best experience yet that influences our senses and propels our reactions. Released from usual thoughts, we are inspired by unusual action on an existential roller coaster where we face, perhaps for the first time, who we really are and what we could really do.

In the end, I stood up to the worst: I stood up to Darth Vader. Or … was it just imagination?

You think your Mom is bad? Look at me. (Look at my score.)