When Testicles Meet Tubular Steel

I guess it isn’t too much of jump between memories, but the other day I managed to get from a trampolining accident to drunken stupidity after starting with a bandaged wrist.

One of the baristas in Starbucks (other coffee shops are available, but they probably don’t have Pumpkin Spice Lattes) had a cast around his wrist and hand.  I asked him what had happened and he explained that he broke a bone in his hand trampolining with one of his colleagues.  Apparently they’ve been skateboarding together without serious injury for a decade, but trampolining was too much.

It reminded me of a time when one of the girls at school was trampolining.  She bounced on her front only to get her nose stuck in the mesh of the trampoline.  Obviously the rest of her body downstream from her head continued to bounce…

That in turn reminded me of a time when a friend decided to do something stupid at the end of a night out.  There was a row “things to chain your bike to” on the street.  My friend decided to see if he could walk across them.  He put one foot on the first, his other foot on the second and went for it. After two steps he was getting wobbly.  On the third he’s nearly gone, and on the forth it was the connection of crotch with “thing to chain your bike to” that broke his fall.

After possibly far too long laughing, we checked he was OK.

I once heard a theory that we laugh at slapstick humour and the misfortune of others to exert our superiority over them.  I actually think that’s a little bit weird.  I laughed at my friend for being an idiot, not because I’m less of one.

Research conducted by psychologist Mirella Manfredi from the University of Milano-Bicocca in 2014 suggested laughing at things going wrong for people is actually a result of the brain’s confusion.

Participants had their brain activity monitored while they were shown photographs grouped into three categories: an “Affective” group, in which the victim showed a pained or angry facial expression; a “Comic” group, in which the victim’s facial expression appeared bewildered or disorientated; and a “No Face” group, where the victim’s facial expression was not visible.

The idea was to pinpoint the specific changes in brain activity that happen when we see someone’s face, and compare it to how funny their unfortunate mishap seemed.

Apparently, when people see one of the comical expressions for the first time it can mistakingly interpret it as terror.  That gurn on my friend as testicles met tubular steel stimulated the part of my brain searching for scary faces.

However, after this part of the brain finishes, another one kicks up.  This is the bit believed to be connected to stimuli containing conflicting features.  This is interesting, because it suggests that the brain has taken the non-threatening context of the situation and the scared face and noticed that something is awry.

In reconciling this paradox, we’re caused to laugh at the f*ckwit for just being clumsy.  This is reinforced by high activity  in another  Event Related Potentials (ERP) which is responsible for contextual comprehension.  You guessed it.  This high activity was noted when the test group were shown pictures of unfortunate mishaps happening to people with no face.

Part of me always felt a little guilty at laughing at my friend.  Now I realise I couldn’t really help it, and it still makes me smile!

(For those wondering about my friend… The day after, he had a bruise from his groin to his knee but he’s definitely had worse injuries since!)

These messages won’t compute
Those images don’t come through
No matter what you say
No matter what you do
Those images don’t come through
These messages won’t compute

Your love
Your love
Score love as a painkiller
Your love
More love
Pure love as a painkiller

Painkiller by Nothing But Thieves

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