The use of humor in public discourse about science has grown remarkably over the past few years, and when used in science communication activities is being seen as a great way to bring science to the public through laughter. This research note looks at studies in the fields of psychology, education and particularly sociological comedy research to theorise how humorus public discourse about science can affect the public understanding of science,
Through the examples in this research note, the author hopes to open up a discussion on the use of humor in science communication and public engagement, not so much because all the examples given are intentional public engagement activities, but because they exemplify some of the potential pitfalls that humour in public engagement could also easily fall. This note is aimed at conceptualising what some of these pitfalls may be by referring to the sociology of humor.
The use of humor in public discourse about science has grown remarkably over the past few years, and when used in science communication activities is being seen as a great way to bring science to the public through laughter. However, barely any research has been published either on the often-assumed beneficial learning effects of humor in informal science education, or on the wider social functions and effects of humour about science and how humorous public discourse about science can influence the public understanding of science and the science–society relationship. This research note reviews some of the literature on the psychology and sociology of humor and comedy and tries to apply some of its insights to the effects humorr might have when used in science communication. Although not intended to be anti-humor, this note attempts at least to start a more critical conversation on the value of humor in the communication of science.
Why did the proton cross the road? Humor and science communication
Public Understanding of Science October 2015 24: 768-775, first published on August 18, 2014 doi:10.1177/0963662514546299