So there are these two muffins baking in an oven. One of them yells, “Wow, it’s hot in here!”(Groan.) It turns out that responses to this humor-free joke tend to depend on social setting and hierarchy.
And the other muffin replies: “Holy cow! A talking muffin!”
When the woman watching was the boss, she didn’t laugh much at the muffin joke. But when she was the underling or a co-worker, she laughed much more, even though the joke-teller wasn’t in the room to see her. When you’re low in the status hierarchy, you need all the allies you can find, so apparently you’re primed to chuckle at anything even if it doesn’t do you any immediate good.In other words, there's a lot of forced laughter in what passes for office humor. Cleverly designed reductionistic experiments like this, proving what's obvious to anyone who has ever worked in an office, keep the machinery of the social science enterprise humming along nicely. But they don't tell us much about the complex mysteries of humor. For openers, you'd need better jokes.