Photo by daveynin (Flickr) - (CC BY 2.0)

Why did the chicken cross the road?

‘Why did the chicken cross the road?’ is just one of the questions we debated this week as part of our content development work. To find out why you’d want to ask 11-18 year olds this cliché joke, read on.

A blue sky for thinking (behind the clouds).

‘The Big Questions’ is one aspect of our content development that we’re pursuing as a hook to hang our super-curricular and cross-disciplinary resources on. We know that young people love to have their say and to think about things in a quirky way.


Today the project team went to visit out developers at their office in Summertown to brainstorm questions. We discovered that it is harder than you’d think to come up with the perfect question that is both profound but attractive and can encompass many different academic disciplines and approaches!

This is just one half of our work.

The questions have to be both academically stimulating and have an element of ‘click bait’ to them. This is a marriage of two styles that don’t often sit together on the internet. After 2 hours we had a pretty big stack of post-its gathered in loose groupings. The most important facet we identified was that we wanted questions that elicited an emotional response – so users felt they could answer immediately even if this initial answer would be informed by their learning as they worked through it.

So, why did the chicken cross the road? This is often answered with a statement of fact (to get to the other side) – yet plenty of people think of it as an archetypal joke. This might lead us to ask where humour comes from, what happens in our brains and bodies to make us laugh, why some people find some things more amusing than others, and how jokes and humour have evolved over time through books and drama.


About Alex Pryce

I manage Communications and Engagement for the digital outreach portal project. I am based in the Widening Access and Participation team at the University of Oxford.

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