When are jokes funny and arguments persuasive? (timing and causality)

Jokes are funny late at night when you are tired and don’t plan on doing anything else. See Brad Wright’s post on causality.

I like watching late-night talk shows, and I find the monologues to be really funny. Recently, however, I’ve tried watching them during the day on the shows’ websites, and I didn’t enjoy them at all. The same joke, told late at night, will have me in stitches but in the middle of the day bores me. To really enjoy them I think that I have to be tired and not planning to do anything else. So, the effect of late-night jokes (A) on my laughing (B) varies by the time of day (C).

I wonder if we can extrapolate that to some more obvious forms of presentation:

  • My wife and I are more likely to agree after we’ve eaten dinner than before [We actually have a rule: “no arguments allowed before dinner.”] I’m more likely to be persuasive if she’s gotten a break; I’ve taken care of the kids, dinner, dishes, etc.; and I’m in the middle of giving her a shoulder massage.
  • People are more likely to listen to you if they have nothing else to do anyway. Maybe that is why road trips are so important to couples; they fill the time by talking about things they could have been talking about all the time, but never got around to – dreams, hopes, etc.. This may also explains why many business deals are sealed on the golf course.
  • And why it is better to write research in the early morning than later in the day when you are tired.

. . . speaking of which.

Read Wright’s whole post on causality including how chocolate can help you lose weight, and how wealth – rather than poverty – can promote crime (causality without correlation).