What Makes Us Laugh: Profile of Professor Tim Mc Graw
You might remember him from the Olympic medal research….ie why bronze medalists are more satisfied than silver medalists.
What makes us laugh (via Joel Warner @ WestWord)
The answer is something he calls the Benign Violation Theory, or the BVT.
The BVT arose from that fateful Google search two years ago. The second search result led to a bare-bones website featuring an HTML version of “A Theory of Humor,” a paper in the May 1998 issue of HUMOR: The International Journal of Humor Research, by a Stanford linguistics student named Thomas Veatch.
Veatch seems to have disappeared (calls to several phone numbers listed under his name aren’t returned, and online references suggest he’s become a plumber), but his hypothesis stuck with McGraw. According to Veatch, humor arose when a person viewed something as being a violation of his or her values, as well as being “normal.”
Other Important Excerpts (Via Joel Warner west word)
To solve the puzzle of all those bad choices, McGraw studied psychology at Rutgers University, then pursued his Ph.D. in quantitative psychology at Ohio State University, focusing on judgment and decision-making. He and his advisor researched why Olympic bronze medalists are more satisfied than silver medalists, and determined that because silver medalists have higher expectations, they are more susceptible to disappointment. He had basketball players take free throws from different parts of the court, asking them to rate their odds of making it before each shot — and discovered they almost always overestimated their chances and were nearly always more dissatisfied than they ought to be. By encouraging people to be more realistic about their likelihood of success — cutting expectations down to size, so to speak — McGraw and his colleagues learned they could make people much happier with their choices.
McGraw soon found himself on the forefront of a new field called behavioral economics, part of a renegade group of scholars who were beginning to question a basic tenet of classical economics: that people naturally weigh costs against benefits and make logical decisions maximizing value and profit. What started out as a fringe discipline is now an authority to be reckoned with, especially after the recent housing and banking collapse revealed that even the financial masters of the universe didn’t seem to be making decisions all that logically. Nudge, a 2008 book that drew on the core concepts of behavioral economics, was named the “Best Book of the Year” by The Economist. And President Barack Obama has relied heavily on a cadre of behavioral economists to help craft his politics of change. One of those experts, psychologist Daniel Kahneman, won a 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics for his pioneering work in the field — while McGraw was sharing an office with him at Princeton.
Since joining CU’s faculty, McGraw has investigated how money is used differently depending on the feeling it provokes in people — for instance, how the windfall from an inheritance is usually reserved for virtuous or practical expenses. He’s looking at how policymakers opt for anti-terrorism programs that are most likely to help them avoid blame if an attack occurs instead of programs that are most likely to have results. And he’s explored how funeral homes and drug companies exploit the public’s tendency to consider concepts such as death and health care sacred and therefore above normal market pressures, allowing these industries to get away with charging people far more than their products and services are worth.