The Faculty of Adaptability
Humour’s Contribution To Human Ingenuity

Alastair Clarke

Author - Alastair Clarke

Publication date:
17 December 2009

Hardback £19.99 RRP
£14.99 from Pyrrhic House
ISBN: 978-0-9559365-1-7

E-book £14.99 RRP
£10.99 from Pyrrhic House
ISBN: 978-0-9559365-2-4

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The definitive text on the pattern recognition theory of humour.

When our species turns inward to analyze itself, the two facets of ingenuity and humour are often held in high regard as examples of its unique abilities, and this theory suggests they are more closely connected than has previously been imagined or acknowledged.

While adaptability is a necessary facet of biological evolution, its expression in human beings has become accelerated into an intellectual capacity for inventing non-genetic solutions to environmental challenges, producing a versatility and ingenuity that have come to define the species. How does this ability function, then, and what has led to its unparalleled exaggeration in the human race?

According to pattern recognition theory, this abundant resourcefulness has arisen due to the presence of a simple, hardwired faculty that exists precisely to encourage it, operating via the recognition of interesting patterns. This, suggests the author, is known as humour.

One of two contrasting theories of humour by Clarke, The Faculty of Adaptability interprets amusement as a creative, adaptive system encouraging the invention and discovery of new information and original ideas.

Following a detailed description of a schematic model via which such a system could exist, the book proceeds to suggest a timeframe for the evolution of the faculty before addressing the basis for over 100 common stimuli to humour.

To download free essays on Clarke's contrasting theory of humour, information normalization theory, visit

About the author

Clarke's pattern recognition theory is featured in the Encyclopedia of Humor Studies (Sage 2014) edited by Salvatore Attardo.

Further publications in Clarke’s series on humour

Information Normalization Signal and Response