Into the mind of a Neanderthal
What would have made them laugh? Or cry? Did they love home more than we do? Meet the real Neanderthals
A NEANDERTHAL walks into a bar and says... well, not a lot, probably. Certainly he or she could never have delivered a full-blown joke of the type modern humans would recognise because a joke hinges on surprise juxtapositions of unexpected or impossible events. Cognitively, it requires quite an advanced theory of mind to put oneself in the position of one or more of the actors in that joke - and enough working memory (the ability to actively hold information in your mind and use it in various ways).
So does that mean our Neanderthal had no sense of humour? No: humans also recognise the physical humour used to mitigate painful episodes - tripping, hitting our heads and so on - which does not depend on language or symbols. So while we could have sat down with Neanderthals and enjoyed the slapstick of The Three Stooges or Lee Evans, the verbal complexities of Twelfth Night would have been lost on them....
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