Why did the proton cross the road? Humour and science communication

Hauke Riesch

The use of humour 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 humour 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 humour and comedy and tries to apply some of its insights to the effects humour might have when used in science communication. Although not intended to be anti-humour, this note attempts at least to start a more critical conversation on the value of humour in the communication of science.

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