Confusion can be extremely frustrating. During my high school physics class, that seemed to be the only feeling I had, and it was the bane of my existence. When I try to do my taxes? Again, not a fan of being confused. But sometimes puzzlement can actually be fun.
Let us introduce you to the “hmmm” subreddit. With the tagline “Internet as Art”, r/hmmm has nearly 2 million members and is famous for posting some of the most baffling photos on the internet. With very simple rules about what can be posted, including “no text in image (except normal logos)” and “all titles must be ‘hmmm’ (lowercase)”, this community thrives on trying to decipher hilarious and absurd images. Below, we’ve put together a list of some of the funniest and most confusing pictures that we think you’ll enjoy. Enjoy these photos, but be careful not to get a headache trying to figure them out. And if you can handle even more confusion after looking at this list, check out bored pandathe latest post from featuring the same subreddit here.
More information: Reddit
I remember learning in a college comedy class that when we’re faced with things that don’t fit our understanding of the world, that contradict what we know, but are treated as normal, our brain can cope with confusion by finding humor in it. For example, situations that you would never expect to happen in real life, such as children wearing costumes and working in an office or a dog driving a taxi, can be really funny if treated as mundane events and dailies.
This idea is the basis of the popular deadpan comedy genre. Fixedor dry humor, “uses a lack of emotion and facial expressions to emphasize the absurdity of [a] joking”. This type of humor seems to be what is at play in many “hmmm” posts. A strange or confusing situation, simply existing in the world without explanation.
Deadpan comedy has been around for at least 100 years old, being mentioned in a New York Times article in the 1920s, but like anything else, it has morphed and adapted over time. Although it was originally popularized in stage performances in Vaudeville, it later became popular on screen, and now it has also moved to the internet. While a sarcastic tweet for comedic effect is questionable if it’s called deadpan (without the presence of a dead facial expression), the comedic concept is the same.
Some classic examples of tongue-in-cheek comedians are Bill Murray and Leslie Nielsen. The 1980 movie Airplane! featured Nielsen and an entire cast of characters making deadpan deliveries throughout almost the entire film. More recent examples of dry humor used in popular sitcoms are Development stopped and Calm your enthusiasm. Sacha Baron Cohen also popularized the style by using his goofy characters’ deadpan delivery to unsuspecting strangers in his films, including Borat and Ali G.. Nathan Fielder follows a similar pattern using an almost undetectable deadpan towards the business owners he features on his show, Nat for you.
Moderators of the hmmm subreddit describe “hmmm” as “textless images that make you think about context, do a double take, invoke deeper meaning, or just make you think about how or why they exist.” “hmmms should be aesthetic and meaningful” and “avoid anything that is merely r/slightly interesting”. Sounds pretty deep, doesn’t it? This seemingly silly and purely entertaining subreddit encourages us to sit in our curiosity, much like we did when we were kids. And maybe experiencing mild confusion is good for us.
Confusion is not a standard emotion (like happiness, sadness, anger, and fear), but according to Paul Silvia, author and professor of psychology, confusion is included in the “knowledge of emotions”. They are “a family of emotional states that promote learning, exploration, and reflection” and include surprise, interest, confusion, and awe. “As a group, the emotions of knowing motivate people to engage in new and confusing things rather than avoid them,” says Silvia. “Over time, engaging with new things, ideas, and people expands one’s experiences and cultivates expertise. The emotions of knowledge therefore do not prepare the body as fear, anger and happiness do, but they prepare the mind.
Silvia explains confusion as “what happens when people learn something that is both unknown and difficult to understand”. And while many assume that confusion leads to frustration and letting go of what causes it, it can actually motivate “dead-end-oriented learning.” Essentially, our brains are stimulated and we start to pay more attention to try to solve the problem that we have not understood. Studies have also shown that when it comes to students, they gain a deeper understanding of topics that initially perplex them after having to work through the confusion.
We all know what confusion looks like, but most of us know what it looks like too. Maybe you frown or frown, tilt your head and purse, or bite your lips. Some professors even use those confused looks on their students’ faces to provide them with better learning resources. Researchers have developed artificial intelligence teaching and tutoring systems that “can detect expressions of confusion”. “When the AI system detects confusion, it can ask questions and give clues that help the student solve the problem.”
As humans, we tend to seek the comfort of knowing as much as we can. About the future, the past, and often, everyone in our lives too because we’re nosy. What seems appropriate in this piece is that the topics of humor and what is considered funny are as confusing to scientists as the images on this list are to us. The article published by the Scientific American titled “What’s so funny? The science of why we laugh” exploring the intriguing subject of humor and theorizing about what exactly makes us laugh.
In his article, Giovanni Sabato mentions several possible explanations for what humans consider funny. The first is “superiority and relief”. This idea, which dates back to Plato and other Greek philosophers, is the idea that “people find humor and laugh at previous versions of themselves and the misfortunes of others because they feel superior. “. Later, the “liberation” theory emerged. Freud popularized this idea that we laugh to release “pent up nervous energy”. Another theory, which lines up with the tongue-in-cheek discussion above, is that “people laugh at the juxtaposition of incompatible concepts and disregard for their expectations.”
The above explanations raise valid points, but they leave too many holes when trying to explain humor scientifically. It would be impossible to accurately test these hypotheses, and they do not account for all types of humor. A more recent theory came from the 2011 book Inside Jokes: Using Humor to Reverse Mind Engineering by Matthew M. Hurley. Hurley’s theory is that “people have fun finding discrepancies between expectation and reality when the discrepancies are harmless, and this fun drives us to seek out such discrepancies”. “Furthermore, laughter is a public sign of our ability to recognize discrepancies. It is a sign that elevates our social status and allows us to attract breeding partners. Yet the psychologists were not satisfied with this explanation either. As a review of the book put it, “Why does our appreciation of humor and fun change depending on our mood or other situational conditions?”
While scientists still haven’t agreed on a clear answer to what makes us find things humorous, that’s no reason to keep you from laughing at harmless and inexplicably funny photos. If this list made you say “hmmm” or frown, be sure to upvote the images you found most disconcerting. Feel free to sit in your confusion and let your imagination wonder how these images came to be. So tell us in the comments which images you found the most intriguing!