Why We Get Pleasure From Pranking Other People
The rascally antics of April Fools’ Day are exploiting yet again a realm that, somehow, has not been fully pranked-out by practical jokesters — the Internet, where today you may spot certain trending tomfoolery weeks in the planning. (And they say we have less free time.)
Like hundreds (thousands?) of fake Justin Biebers simultaneously tweeting via The Bieb’s icon and name.
Or, maybe (though highly, highly doubtful) Facebook will take the playful advice of many fans who suggest that, for one day, the site swap its status and search boxes so that all your friends can see who you’re about to stalk.
And, of course, there was loads of online chatter late last week about the upcoming launch of a sweet, new bacon-flavored Scope.
Why do we do these silly things? Why — and not just on April 1 — do we find such pleasure in punking our pals? According to Jonathan Wynn, a cultural sociologist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, many of us get a swift psychological kick out of being the fooler and, for some, even the fool.
“Within a group, the jokester has always held a kind of magical status. I think of court jesters who were able to tease the king. These are people who gain an element of status as having a key role as being a prankster,” Wynn said.
On the painful end of the gag, (otherwise known as “the butt”), some victims of community trickeration may grow immediately uncomfortable because they realize they’re so susceptible to being duped — or, more broadly, that they are just plain vulnerable, according to a 2007 paper authored by three college professors and published in the Review of General Psychology, a journal of the American Psychological Association.
For many caper casualties, however, there is a sort of charm that comes with being targeted by well-schemed hijinks.
When hierarchical groups such as law enforcement agencies or frat houses use certain tried-and-true shenanigans to momentarily embarrass newbies, the rough-housing is ultimately meant to bust down social boundaries and welcome fresh people into the group. In other words, it’s meant to be flattering.
“It’s about how well you respond. It’s clearly a test,” Wynn said. “If you can respond graciously to a prank, you become initiated as a member of the group.”
Just remember that as you’re pulling up your pants and wiping the whipped cream out of your ear holes. Or, simply utter the immortal words of Kevin Bacon in “Animal House” – “Thank you, sir! May I have another!”
Have a story about the greatest prank ever? Tweet me @KrisSanchez – I’d love to hear it!