"Political Humor, Sharing, and Remembering: Insights from Neuroimaging." Journal of Communication, 2020.

Jason C. Coronel, Matthew B. O’Donnell, Prateekshit Pandey, Michael X. Delli Carpini, and Emily B. Falk

Over the last two decades, news-oriented comedy programs have risen to compete with traditional hard news media as sources of information about politics. To the extent that a politically knowledgeable electorate is necessary for a thriving democracy, understanding the mechanisms underlying the extent to which political comedy facilitates or inhibits a well-informed citizenry is critical. Across two studies, we use behavioral experiments and neuroimaging to examine the causal effects of humor on the desire to share and the capacity to remember political information. We find that humor increases the likelihood to share political information with others and enhances people’s memory for information. Humor also increases brain response in regions associated with understanding other people’s mental states (i.e., mentalizing), which advances a theoretical framework that humor may facilitate considerations of others’ views (e.g., how other people will respond to shared political information).