The Situationist

Archive for April 1st, 2009

The Situation of April Fools’ Day

Posted by The Situationist Staff on April 1, 2009

taco-bell-liberty-bellTaya Flores of the Journal and Courier has a timely piece on the pranking of others that so often take place each April 1st.   We excerpt her piece below.

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April Fools’ Day is characterized by pulling pranks and playing jokes. While most experts and pranksters agree that it can be done in good fun, some say pranksters have to tread a fine line between pulling a comical prank that evokes laughter or committing a humiliating act that induces tears.

Jan Yager, friendship expert, speaker and author of “When Friendship Hurts…” and “Friendshift…” said pranks are not recommended.

She said people have to be careful today when it comes to pulling pranks — especially on electronic media. She advised against using April Fool’s Day as an opportunity to create fake electronic postings because a joke played in an electronic era might have dramatic and long-term consequences compared to the pre-electronic era.

“What one person might think of as a joke, the other might think is vicious or malicious,” she said.

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Steve Wilson, professor of communication at Purdue University, also said motivation needs to be taken into consideration when pranking someone.

“It could be beneficial to friendships if it’s to make someone laugh but to humiliate someone would probably have a negative impact,” he said.

He explained that in friendships people have expectations and some April Fools pranks can violate those expectancies.

Kip Williams, professor of psychological sciences at Purdue University, said pranks can have positive effects on friendships.

He supported this argument by referring to a December 2008 New York Times article written by Dacher Keltner, a California psychology professor.

In the article, Keltner defended teasing as an essential mode of play where humans negotiate life’s ambiguities and conflicts.

“I think he had a good point,” Williams said.  Williams said good natured teasing has positive effects and is a way to bond with someone and shows one’s need for approval.  He said this idea can be easily applied to pranks or jokes, because they are a physical or visual version of teasing.

However, he said the line between beneficial pranks and harmful jokes is fuzzy and requires a mutual understanding of knowing where to stop before a prank becomes hurtful.

He added that another positive aspect to jokes is that they provide a sense of inclusion. He said if no one plays a joke on a person then that individual might feel left out.

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For the rest of the piece, click here.  For an amusing website on the Top 100 April Fool’s Day Hoaxes click here.  The photo above is from Taco Bell’s full-page ad appearing in the April 1, 1996 editions of several national dailies (e.g., New York Times, Washington Post).  The ad claimed that Taco Bell had purchased the Liberty Bell and planned to re-name it the Taco Liberty Bell.

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