Sociology and Psychology of Pranks

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Pranks Psych 101

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Filed under: Sociology and Psychology of Pranks, What Makes a Good Prank?, Why Do a Prank?

Submitted by Steffani Martin and Peter Maloney:

April Fool! The Purpose of Pranks
by Benedict Carey
New York Times
April 1, 2008

01mind3952-3.jpgKeep it above the belt, stop short of total humiliation and, if possible, mix in some irony, some drama, maybe even a bogus call from the person’s old flame or new boss. A good prank, of course, involves good stagecraft. But it also requires emotional intuition.

Psychologists have studied pranks for years, often in the context of harassment, bullying and all manner of malicious exclusion and prejudice.

Yet practical jokes are far more commonly an effort to bring a person into a group, anthropologists have found — an integral part of rituals around the world intended to temper success with humility. And recent research suggests that the experience of being duped can stir self-reflection in a way few other experiences can, functioning as a check on arrogance or obliviousness. (more…)

Why’d ya do it?

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Filed under: Sociology and Psychology of Pranks

U-Turn, by Bruce BriersonAn interesting perspective on why some people think about taking a leap and other people actually do it…


Brian Lynch reviews U-Turn: What If You Woke Up One Morning and Realized You Were Living the Wrong Life? by Bruce Grierson, for www.straight.com.

Pranks Defined

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Filed under: Definitions, Sociology and Psychology of Pranks, The Prank as Art

books_cov_prank.jpg

This definition of pranks is from V.Vale’s introduction to his formative book PRANKS, published in 1987 by RE/Search Publications. I’ve always loved this essay. He has graciously allowed us to reprint it here. In 2006, RE/Search Publications released a follow-up book called Pranks! 2 that is equally seminal in its approach to the subject -JS


PRANKS. According to the Merriam-Webster New Collegiate Dictionary, a prank is a “trick . . . a mildly mischievous act . . . a practical joke . . . a ludicrous act.” The best pranks invoke the imagination, poetic imagery, the unexpected and a deep level of irony or social criticism—such as Boyd Rice’s presentation of a skinned sheep’s head on a silver platter to Betty Ford, First Lady of the United States. Great pranks create synaesthetic experiences which are unmistakably exciting, original, and reverberating, as well as creative, metaphoric, poetic and artistic. If these criteria be deemed sufficient, then pranks can be considered as constituting an art form and genre in themselves.

However slighted by Academia, pranks are not without cultural and historical precedent. (more…)