A Psychologist’s Take on Why We Prank

A Psychologist’s Take on Why We Prank

I have pretty much always been a prankster. And scaring people has been my specialty. But at what point do prank’s cross the line?


The psychologist, Dr. David Verhaagen, describes pranks and humor as finding the line between violating a person or subject but making sure the violation is benign. The other characteristic of humor involves time.For example, filming someone who is crying after their expensive drone crashed would be considered mean. However, joking about the drone crash and the crying two weeks later makes the violation more benign. Scaring somebody is a violation and is also typically benign; therefore, time is not a consideration.

Another way of thinking about pranks is understanding the difference between bullying and teasing. Teasing is a way of bringing people closer together. Bullying is designed to push people apart. Additionally, if the person being teased asks for the teasing to stop, it does. If a bully is asked to stop bullying, the behavior does not stop.

Pranks and jokes are a large part of my workplace culture, and I have found that in most workplaces, where there are joking and pranks, there will also be healthy relationships. To that end, I offer you a few of my best.

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A Psychologist's Take on Why We Prank