Today is the day I hate even more than Pirate Speaking Day — April Fool’s Day — where everyone gets to hurt someone else’s feelings on purpose and by design and then just laugh it off later. We previously discussed the cruel phenomenon of this day in Schadenfraude and The April Fool — and in thinking what to say this year concerning this awful topic, I became bemused by an email from Duke University claiming research demonstrating embarrassment is actually good for us:

Although blushing after an April Fool’s joke might worsen your embarrassment, there is a bright side, says a Duke University professor who is an expert on embarrassment and blushing.

“Everybody blushes to some degree,” said Mark Leary, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke. “It’s a sign that you’re attuned to the social norms. Those who don’t blush tend to be indifferent to behaving appropriately.”

Embarrassment arises when you present an image of yourself to others that you didn’t want to present, Leary said. And, even though falling for that April Fool’s trick might make you worry that others will view you badly, in fact, visible signs of embarrassment actually help your social situation, he said.

He said humans’ reaction to being embarrassed is similar to “appeasement behavior” in chimps — the silly grin, the body language — that tells others that the individual recognizes his or her transgression and asks for forgiveness. “Other people like you better if you appear embarrassed,” Leary said.

Now if that Duke email and website are real — and not crumbling into laughter that we purchased their April Fool’s Day prank as we become embarrassed — do you agree or not that turning scarlet-faced is a healthy thing for your body, mind and spirit?

Isn’t April Fool’s Day bent in mocking and born of cruelty? What satisfaction does one gain in making someone else feel uncomfortable? Isn’t this the ultimate argument in duplicity: “I’m making fun of you because it’s good for your health!”

40 Comments

  1. I am not a today fan. I turned on the tv and saw QVC offering “Flameless Candles” “Flameless Towels” “Flameless Pots and Pans” and so on and the host said, “Oh, April Fools!” I turned the channel.

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  2. Funny, Anne! I think there’s a lot of pressure today to one-up the other guy and to be tricksy and foolhardy. It gets old fast and once found out, then what? Where does the discussion turn?

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  3. One friend of mine told me my dog died one year. He kept me going all day long at school. I was in tears. He walked me home. When I saw my puppy alive I was so happy. Then he told me it was an April Fool’s joke. Just awful. I mark it on my calendar every year now. Only the trusting people get fooled because we can’t imagine anyone trying to hurt our feelings for a laugh.

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  4. Hi Nicola!
    The spaghetti tree thing is pretty funny. It hurts no one directly. It makes fun of cultural ignorance and ethnic indifference.
    There’s a guy here — can’t recall his name — who creates wild stunts all year round to fool the media pretending these things are true. Now that, I love, because his outrageous stunts are reported as real and it just goes to show how gullible the national media are when it comes to flash over content. His stunts condemn their malfeasance as the fourth estate.
    I found him! Alan Abel:
    http://www.alanabel.com/biography.php
    He’s a professional prankser. His most famous prank was starting a moral crusade in 1959 that all animals should have their privates covered for modesty’s sake.

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  5. Hi Nicola!
    The spaghetti tree thing is pretty funny. It hurts no one directly. It makes fun of cultural ignorance and ethnic indifference.
    There’s a guy here — can’t recall his name — who creates wild stunts all year round to fool the media pretending these things are true. Now that, I love, because his outrageous stunts are reported as real and it just goes to show how gullible the national media are when it comes to flash over content. His stunts condemn their malfeasance as the fourth estate.
    I found him! Alan Abel:
    http://www.alanabel.com/biography.php
    He’s a professional prankser. His most famous prank was starting a moral crusade in 1959 that all animals should have their privates covered for modesty’s sake.

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  6. Alan is a lot of fun. He’s so wacky and the media have been fooled by him for 50 years and he’s always the spokesman for his own pranks. The shared major media memory is shallow and faint.

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  7. Alan is a lot of fun. He’s so wacky and the media have been fooled by him for 50 years and he’s always the spokesman for his own pranks. The shared major media memory is shallow and faint.

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  8. David,
    I don’t like April Fool’s Day AT ALL. I am okay with a silly little harmless prank here and there, like switching the salt and pepper in the shakers before suppertime. But many people use the holiday as an excuse to be cruel.
    Did anyone get hit with an April Fool’s joke today? I haven’t, but I spent a good deal of the day driving back into town. I’ve not seen my teenage brother yet either, so anything could happen!

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  9. David,
    I don’t like April Fool’s Day AT ALL. I am okay with a silly little harmless prank here and there, like switching the salt and pepper in the shakers before suppertime. But many people use the holiday as an excuse to be cruel.
    Did anyone get hit with an April Fool’s joke today? I haven’t, but I spent a good deal of the day driving back into town. I’ve not seen my teenage brother yet either, so anything could happen!

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  10. Ems —
    Yes. Only the pathologically obnoxious enjoy this day. You have to have a mean streak in you to enjoy pranking others. I know several people who LIVE for today — I can’t think of one person I know, however, who enjoys being the butt end of the joke — including those vicious few.

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  11. Hi Gordon —
    I saw that Gmail paper thing and thought it was just lame! They went too far with the soybean description. Less is more believable.
    It’s interesting to note on google.com they’re promoting today the — Google TiSP (BETA) — prank with a hotlink, but the Gpaper didn’t get the same celebration. Perhaps GToiletPapper might’ve fared a bit better!

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  12. I was just logging into gmail and it was advertised on the login page and I definitely laughed out loud.
    I love being the butt of jokes on april 1st.
    I also love making up elaborate tales that are harmless. I once told a woman I was dating that since her family didn’t know any hebrew and mine mostly did, it would be only fair that our hypothetical wedding ceremony be all in Klingon since neither family knew that.
    I had her convinced that for the right money, Orthodox rabbis would go through with everything in Klingon – and everything related to the wedding would be printed in Klingon!
    I said the ceremony would be mostly as normal other than being in Klingon – and the rabbi would chase the bride around and start pulling on her leg – much like I was pulling hers then! Oh, a fun time was had by all.

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  13. I was thinking from the morning whether I would divulge the secret or not – finally, here you go…
    I hate “practical jokes”, especially being on the receiving end of it…
    Three of my friends couriered a fake coupon (!) to my address once that said I won a trip to a different city – they knew how much I liked to travel and on top of it – they disclosed it to the rest of the class…
    You can well imagine the humiliation, because I didn’t realize it was fake (kudos to my friends who made it) before talking to my classmates…
    I called their home and said I was their ‘mother-in-law-to be’ speaking and we needed to have a serous talk about our children’s future…all I needed was to fake the angry, neurotic mother-in-law’s voice!
    This was a time before cell phone when the parents used to accept the call!
    It goes without saying my friends didn’t sleep very well that night! 😀

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  14. I think I have to plead the fifth on that one – we of the orthodox sort shouldn’t date a woman for more than a year – if we’re not married by about a year, it’s just not going to happen.

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  15. Katha!
    I’m glad you shared your secret! I hate those kind of jokes and I’m glad you fought back! If a bully punches you in the chin, you punch right back twice as hard!
    Practical jokes demand the response of revenge every time!

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