Humor Helps Shut Off Stupid Parts of Your Brain

by Liz Colville

A Northwestern University research team can now unveil the exciting idea that “people were more likely to solve word puzzles with sudden insight when they were amused, having just seen a short comedy routine.” The presence of comedy apparently helped lower “the brain’s threshold for detecting weaker or more remote connections,” in other words helped it ignore the acceptable, but dumb, answers to the puzzle.

A puzzle expert (OK, anthropology professor) then chimes in on this, saying that puzzles themselves make people happy; no outside humor required. Sure, you can solve a puzzle using your smarts, but it’s best if you let the puzzle relax and tantalize you, this expert says, because it allows you to tap into sudden, insightful answers, which might be better than slow-to-come answers written in very soft pencil with question marks at the end of them.

“It’s all about you, using your own mind, without any method or schema, to restore order from chaos,” the puzzle guy tells the Times. “And once you have, you can sit back and say, ‘Hey, the rest of my life may be a disaster, but at least I have a solution.’” To a puzzle.