3) Draw on the benign violation theory and related behavioral science research to examine how we can enhance humor. That’s right. I want to use science to make people funnier. If science can explain what makes things humorous, it should be able to help people appreciate and produce humor more often, right?
You might think that the idea sounds impossible, but there are good reasons to believe that people can develop a better sense of humor. Here are three reasons to believe we can do it: 1) comedians and improvisers get funnier with practice, 2) people regularly learn difficult social and artistic skills (public speaking, painting, etc.) with coaching and practice, and 3) positive psychology has already shown how things such as curiosity, gratitude, and mindfulness can be enhanced (and thus a path to improved well-being).
After much thought, I have decided not to pursue this area of research. The reason is simple: I don’t have the right resources (staff, students, and money) to conduct the kind of longitudinal field studies needed to do this research right. Alas.
I still believe that topic is important — and may still write a theoretical article about the topic. That said, I hope someone in a better position takes it up. If you are interested, please reach out. I would be happy to discuss.