Putting animals in a funny order (1897 study)

Which animal, in your opinion, is funnier, a Narwhal or a Numbat?

A: Narwhal
B: Numbat
C: Neither

If your answer was A, or B, then it adds weight to the hypothesis that animals can be listed in order of ‘funniness’. Messrs G. Stanley Hall and Arthur Alliń made progress in this area as far back as 1897. The team, reporting in the American Journal of Psychology, Vol. IX. October 1897, No. 1, had previously issued a ‘syllabus’ requesting that readers send them accounts of mirth-provoking incidents.

“In February, 1896, the authors of this paper issued a syllabus (No. 10 in the series for that year), entitled, Tickling, Fun, Wit, Humor, Laughing. This was widely circulated, and brought returns up to the date of writing from, in all, about 700 persons, reporting sometimes on themselves and often collectively from many others, so that nearly 3,000 people and perhaps 4,000 items are represented in the following report.”

With the aid of this quite substantial database, the researchers were able to list not only which animals are funny, but also rank them in order (funniest first). Improbable is quite gratified that in the intervening 117 years (or so), our archives show that we have managed to cover all of them (though not necessarily in the correct order).

Here’s Hall and Alliń’s list – click the links to read Improbable articles featuring the creature in question.

“In our returns the order of frequency in mentioning animals as mirth-provoking is : dog, cat, pig, louse, monkey, rooster, crow, chicken, duck, ape, goose, sheep, cow, horse, pollywog [i.e. tadpole], parrot, turkey gobbler, frog, owl, etc.

‘The Psychology of Tickling, Laughing, and the Comic’ can be read in full here:

 






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