Confusion can be extremely frustrating. During my high school physics class, it seemed to be the only feeling I experienced, and it was the bane of my existence. When I’m trying to do my taxes? Again, not a fan of being confused. But sometimes, bewilderment can actually be fun.

Let us introduce you to the “hmmm” subreddit. With the tagline, “Internet as an art”, r/hmmm has almost 2 million members and is famous for posting some of the most perplexing photos on the internet. With very simple rules about what can be posted including “no text in the image (except normal logos)” and “all titles must be ‘hmmm’ (in lowercase)”, this community thrives on trying to decipher hilariously absurd images. Below, we’ve gathered a list of some of the funniest and most confusing pictures that we think you’ll get a kick out of. Enjoy these photos, but be careful not to get a headache trying to understand them. And if you can handle even more confusion after viewing this list, check out Bored Panda’s last publication featuring the same subreddit here.

More info: Reddit

I remember learning in a stand-up comedy class in college that when we’re confronted with things that don’t fit into our understanding of the world, that contradict what we know, but they’re treated as normal, our brains can cope with the confusion by finding humor in it. For example, situations we would never expect to happen in reality, such as children wearing suits and working in an office or a dog driving a taxi, can be really funny if they’re treated like mundane, everyday occurrences.

This idea is the basis for the popular genre of deadpan comedy. Deadpan, or dry humor, “uses a lack of emotion and facial expressions to highlight the absurdity of [a] joke”. This type of humor seems to be what’s at play in a lot of the “hmmm” posts. An odd or confusing situation, just existing in the world with no explanation.

Deadpan comedy has been around for at least 100 years, being mentioned in a New York Times article in the 1920’s, but like anything else, it has transformed and adapted with the times. While it was originally popularized in Vaudeville stage performances, it then became popular onscreen, and now it’s transitioned to the internet as well. Although a sarcastic tweet for comedic effect is debatable whether it qualifies as deadpan (without the presence of dead facial expression), the comedic concept is the same.

#4

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Gegenuebertragung Report

Bexx 🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦
Community Member
7 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Vancouver! I have a very awkward photo involving myself and several pairs of underpants in front of this orca.

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Some classic examples of deadpan comedians are Bill Murray and Leslie Nielsen. The 1980 film Airplane! featured Nielsen and a whole cast of characters performing deadpan deliveries throughout nearly the entire film. More recent examples of dry humor being used in popular sitcoms are Arrested Development and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Sacha Baron Cohen has also popularized the style by using deadpan delivery of his wacky characters to unsuspecting strangers in his films, including Borat and Ali G. Nathan Fielder follows a similar pattern using almost undetectable deadpan towards business owners he features on his show, Nathan For You.

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4chanAD Report

Caro Caro
Community Member
7 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

This is cool. How was this done? Is it paint that looks like rust???

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The moderators of the hmmm subreddit describe “hmmm”s as “textless images that make you think about the context, do a double take, invoke a deeper meaning, or just leave you thinking about how or why they exist”. “hmmms should be aesthetic and meaningful" and "avoid anything that is merely r/mildlyinteresting”. Sounds kind of deep, doesn’t it? This subreddit that on the surface seems silly and purely for entertainment is encouraging us to sit in our curiosity, much like we did as children. And maybe experiencing some mild confusion is good for us.

Confusion is not a standard emotion (such as happiness, sadness, anger and fear), but according to Paul Silvia, author and professor of psychology, confusion is included in the “knowledge emotions”. These are “a family of emotional states that foster learning, exploring, and reflecting” and include surprise, interest, confusion and awe. “As a group, the knowledge emotions motivate people to engage with new and puzzling things rather than avoid them,” Silvia explains. “Over time, engaging with new things, ideas, and people broadens someone’s experiences and cultivates expertise. The knowledge emotions thus don’t gear up the body like fear, anger, and happiness do, but they do gear up the mind.”

Silvia explains confusion as “what happens when people are learning something that is both unfamiliar and hard to understand”. And while many assume that confusion leads to frustration and tuning out whatever is causing it, it actually can motivate “impasse-driven learning”. Essentially, our brains are stimulated, and we start paying closer attention to try to work out the issue that we didn’t understand. 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 confusion.

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earthmoonsun Report

Asher Tye
Community Member
7 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

That's why you don't mess with railway workers

SCP 504
Community Member
7 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

The past generation will prevent you from making a future one…

glowworm2
Community Member
7 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I love his sense of humor!

Cameron Deering
Community Member
7 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Thanks for the laugh... hysterical...

Elyse Crawford
Community Member
7 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

If This Were A historically authentic representation these workers would have been Chinese.

Jon S.
Community Member
7 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

These are dock workers in Veracruz City, Mexico, rather than US rail workers. Surrounding this there are statues of various other dock infrastructure workers. I don't know if that changes your estimate of their ethnicity, but I've certainly seen fewer historical representations chinses labourers in that profession.

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David Brown
Community Member
7 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I knew an old man that worked for the railroad his entire life. At 85 he was just as tough and strong as any dude half his age. Watched him whip his much younger neighbors a*s after he disrespected his wife. Old man was a legend.

TonyTee
Community Member
7 months ago (edited) Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I would've liked to have known that man

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ArodTheHorrible
Community Member
7 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Next time you BETTER HAVE YOUR TICKET

that_curly_girl 🇺🇦
Community Member
6 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

never mess with the railroad workers…they’ve been working all the live long day 🤣🤣🤣

John Crandall
Community Member
7 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

At least he wasn't jumped by three pipe layers

Luke Andersen
Community Member
7 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

man, those smurfs have been working out!

TonyTee
Community Member
7 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Dude disrupted their work and made them screw up, now they gotta start all over! To teach him a lesson they're gonna break his balls

Liz Siemens
Community Member
7 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Hahahahaha this is awesome. His face looks so legitimately in pain lol

Ozymandias73
Community Member
7 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

That would be something I would do LOL

GPZ
Community Member
4 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Not quite what they meant when they said "I've been working in the railroad..."

Rachel Ramey
Community Member
7 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Now we know where the term Iron Giant comes from

Asteroid Impact
Community Member
7 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

That musta hurt like the dickens!

Margaret Hooper
Community Member
7 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I hate to think what the man at the back is aiming at with the brown point on that hammer.

Ace Phillips
Community Member
7 months ago (edited) Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Well, railways do require a lot of "nuts" and bolts...

Rico DaBull
Community Member
7 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Wages, Bills and Gas prices

Whatsit2u
Community Member
7 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I wouldn’t spare that guy a thing

Fatima Manna
Community Member
7 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Wake up babe a new cruel and unusual punishment dropped

Lottie
Community Member
7 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

When the smart kid reminds the teacher about homework

Cat Girl
Community Member
7 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Don’t mess with John Henry…

Josh Stevenson
Community Member
7 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

When did cops change their uniform to teal?

Adrienne Mcginley
Community Member
7 months ago (edited) Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

NEVER try to walk across the the middle of the tracks!!

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We all know what confusion feels like, but most of us know what it looks like too. Maybe you furrow or scrunch your eyebrows, tilt your head and purse or bite your lips. Some professors are even using these trademark looks of confusion 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 hints that help the student work through the problem.”

As humans, we tend to seek comfort in knowing as much as we can. About the future, about the past and often, about everyone in our lives too because we’re nosy. What seems fitting in this piece is that the topics of humor and what’s considered funny are as perplexing to scientists as the images in this list are to us. The Scientific American published piece 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.

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SuperNeonSamurai-2 Report

Millie Domeney
Community Member
7 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

How long has that person been sitting there making that?

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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 in, and laugh at, earlier versions of themselves and the misfortunes of others because of feeling superior”. Later, the theory of “release” emerged. Freud popularized this idea that we laugh to release “pent-up nervous energy”. Another theory, which aligns with the deadpan discussion above, is that “people laugh at the juxtaposition of incompatible concepts and at defiance of their expectations”.

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seven_critical_blows Report

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northead Report

Sue Hazlewood
Community Member
7 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

🎶 You take the high road and I'll take the low road 🎶

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The explanations above 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-Engineer the Mind by Matthew M. Hurley. Hurley’s theory is that “people derive amusement from finding discrepancies between expectations and reality when the discrepancies are harmless, and this pleasure keeps us looking for such discrepancies”. “Moreover, 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 reproductive partners.” Yet, psychologists were not satiated by this explanation either. As a review of the book mentioned, “Why does our appreciation of humor and enjoyment change depending on our mood or other situational conditions?”

See Also on Bored Panda

While scientists still have not agreed on a clear answer of what causes us to find things humorous, that’s no reason to stop yourself from laughing at harmless, inexplicably funny photos. If this list prompted you to say “hmmm” or scrunch your eyebrows, be sure to upvote the images you found the most bewildering. Feel free to sit in your confusion, and let your imagination wonder how these images came to be. Then let us know in the comments which pictures you found the most intriguing!

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kocakmucaht Report

BasedWang12
Community Member
7 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

This just looks so pitiful.. I woulda just sat down and died before I called the fire department lmao

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See Also on Bored Panda
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lane-walker Report

Steven Bennett
Community Member
7 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Used to work at a store where every box I unpacked had 5 or 6 of these packets at the bottom. I started harvesting them, cut them open, and saved the beads. Took a couple of years, but I eventually filled a two gallon glass jar with tiny silicon beads--now I want this pillow to go with it!

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thefurry_slayerof100 Report

Crease Almighty
Community Member
7 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

He didn’t get a second date after he told her he had crabs.

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#40

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