How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
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Why April fools?
Today is April the first, when there's a tradition of playing pranks on other people, trying to get them to believe something is true when it is not. Up and down the nation and around the world people will engage in wilful lying and there will be plenty of laughter. The newspapers join in with both obvious and subtle reports. One paper describes a tax on air, with people in the country paying more for the clean air they get. Another about rude place names, including Kiss Me Arse Steps, is more elaborate and has multiple websites involved, leaving you wondering if it really is true. On the TV, they had 'William and Kate' lookalikes strutting around the London streets and befuddling excited tourists.
Then entry in Wikipedia muses about Middle-Ages origins and describes some delightful tricks, and there's nearly six million entries in Google about it. But why? What's it really all about?
One reason is perhaps that there's a bit of a release in a legitimized deception. We are the 'mendacious ape' and are programmed to deceive, so it's sometimes nice to do it without criticism. Pranks are already a mainstay of human interaction, even if they sometimes test friendship. Between friends there is a level of trust which allows one person to tell another a huge lie and for the second to accept it without question. So maybe it's about friendship.
Maybe as well as the fun of the prank there's a solemn reminder that we should always be on our guard about deception and not even fully trust our friends. Maybe also the friendship can deepen as an underlying message is also sent that when I play a trick on a chum I am also trusting that the reprisals will not be too severe.
Whilst I was writing this a friend called up to invite me for coffee. I told him that the road was being dug up and he wouldn't be able to get to his house. He took the bait and we had an amusing conversation about how to handle it. Heaven knows what tricks will greet me when I go to see him later!
Coda: The Guardian later published a list of media April 1st stories.
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