Laughter by Don L. F. Nilsen and Alleen

Laughter by Don L. F. Nilsen and Alleen

Laughter by Don L. F. Nilsen and Alleen Pace Nilsen 1 Laughter 2 Modern Man

Modern man in contrast to primitive man has been called: Homo Erectus (upright man) Homo Sapiens (thinking man) Homo Ridens (laughing man) 3 The Id, the Super Ego, and Tendentious Jokes The Id is a pool for desires and drives. As society and parental influence (represented in the super ego) do not allow the direct

expression of sexual and hostile impulses, gratification can only be achieved in an indirect way. There, individuals repressing their sexuality or aggression should show a preference for sexual and aggressive jokes. (Ruch [2008] 29) 4 Traits, States, and Behaviors Seriousness vs. Playfulness TRAITS: A serious person wants to function exclusively in the bona fide mode of

communication. This is not true for a playful person. STATES: We can be in a serious or pensive mood, or a silly mood. BEHAVIORS: We can tell a joke or clown around. (Ruch [2008] 32) 5 States Playful Mood Cheerful mood Hilarious mood

Serious Mood Earnestness Pensiveness Soberness Bad Mood Sadness Melancholy Ill-Humor (Adapted from Ruch [2008] 34)

6 Moods (States) While an ill-humored person, like the serious one, may not want to be involved in humor, the person in a sad mood may not be able to do so even if he or she would like to. Also, while the sad person is not antagonistic to a cheerful

group, the ill-humored one may be. Bad mood might also be a disposition facilitating certain forms of humor, such as mockery, irony, cynicism, and sarcasm. (Ruch [2008] 34) 7 Types of Humor

Affiliative Humor involves the tendency to say funny things, to tell jokes, and to engage in spontaneous witty banter. Self-Enhancing Humor is a coping mechanism. Aggressive Humor involves sarcasm, teasing, ridicule, derision, put downs or disparagement. Self-Defeating Humor is when a person allows himself to be the butt of other peoples jokes.

(Ruch [2008] 38-39) 8 Smiles Willibald Ruch indicates that anatomically there are about 20 types of smiles, controlled by five facial muscles: Zygomatic Major Zygomatic Minor Levator Anguli Oris

Buccinator Risorius (Ruch [2008] 21) 9 Enjoyment Smiles When individuals genuinely enjoy humor they show the facial configuration named the Duchenne display, which refers to the joint contraction of the zygomatic major and the orbicularis oculi muscles (pulling the lip corners backwards and upwards and raising the cheeks) causing eye wrinkles, respectively.

(Ruch [2008] 21) 10 Non-Enjoyment Smiles Smiles not following these definitions are unlikely to reflect genuine enjoyment of humor. There may be smiling involved in blends of emotions (e.g., when enjoying a disgusting or frightening film), smiles masking negative emotions (e.g., pretending enjoyment when actually sadness or anger is felt), miserable, flirting, sadistic, embarrassment, compliance, coordination, contempt, and

phony etc. smiles. (Ruch [2008] 22) 11 Humor Styles Craik, Lampert, Nelson, & Ware Socially Warm Reflective Competent Earthy Benign

Vs. Socially Cold Vs. Boorish Vs. Inept Vs. Repressed Vs. Mean-Spirited (Ruch [2008] 4142) 12 Laughter Most laughter is not a response to

jokes or other formal attempts at humor (Provine [2001] 42). Laughter may be caused by all sorts of non-humorous stimuli (tickling, laughing gas, embarrassment) and can be triggered by imitation (watching other people laugh) (Attardo [2007] 117) 13 Giles and Oxford (1970) list seven causes of laughter: humorous, social, ignorance, anxiety, derision, apologetic, and tickling.

Olbrechts-Tyteca (1974) point out that laughter largely exceeds humor. Jodi Eisterhold (2006) discussed the principle of least disruption, which enjoins speakers to return to a serious mode as soon as possible. 14 LAUGHTER VS. SMILING Because smiles can sometimes evolve into laughs and laughs can taper off into smiles, some people think that laughter is merely a form of exaggerated

smiling. However, smiles are more likely to express feelings of satisfaction or good will, while laughter comes from surprise or a recognition of an incongruity. Furthermore, laughter is basically a public event while smiling is basically a private event. 15 Laughter is an Invitation To laugh, or to occasion laughter through humor and wit, is to invite those present to come closer.

Laughter and humor are indeed like an invitation, be it an invitation for dinner, or an invitation to start a conversation: it aims at decreasing social distance. (Coser 172) (Kuipers (2008): 366) 16 Laughter is a social phenomenon. Thats why getting the giggles never happens when we are alone.

In contrast, people often smile when they are reading or even when they are having private thoughts. 17 Smiling is not contagious, but laughter is contagious. Thats why radio and television comedy performances often have a laugh track.

18 PHILOSOPHERS STATEMENTS ABOUT LAUGHTER Throughout time, philosophers have made many statements about laughter that are not true of smiling. These philosophers include Thomas Hobbes, Immanuel Kant, William Hazlitt, Arthur Schopenhauer, Henri Bergson and Sigmund Freud.

Each of these philosophers defined laughter in a different way: 19 THOMAS HOBBES Laughter is the sudden glory arising from the sudden conception of some eminency in ourselves, by comparison with the infirmity of others. (Leviathan, 1651) 20

IMMANUEL KANT Laughter is an affection arising from a strained expectation being suddenly reduced to nothing. (The Critique of Judgment, 1790) 21 WILLIAM HAZLITT The essence of the laughable is

the incongruous, the disconnecting one idea from another, or the jostling of one feeling against another. (Lecturers on the Comic Writers, Etc. of Great Britain, 1819) 22 ARTHUR SCHOPENHAUER The phenomenon of laughter always signifies the sudden apprehension of an incongruity

between a conception and the real object. (The World as Will and Idea 1844) 23 HENRI BERGSON Something mechanical encrusted on the living causes laughter. (Laughter 1900)

24 SIGMUND FREUD Laughter arises from the release of previously existing static energy. (Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious, 1905) 25 THE PARADOXES OF LAUGHTER Although laughter is usually associated

with mirth and joy, perpetrators of violent acts have also been known to exhibit menacing smiles, or to laugh demonically. The paradoxes of laughter have been addressed by many laughter scholars: 26 JAMES AGEE James Agee classified the laughter of screen comedians into four categories: the titter, the yowl, the belly laugh, and the buffo.

which he organized into six categories ranging from the incipient or inner and inaudible laugh (the simper and smirk) to the loud and unrestrained howl, yowl, shriek, and Olympian laugh. 27 GARY ALAN FINE Gary Alan Fine has explained that a smile in one society may portray friendliness, in another

embarrassment, while in still another it may be a warning of hostilities and attack if tension is not reduced. 28 JACOB LEVINE No pattern of human behavior is so full of paradoxes.

We may laugh in sympathy, from anxiety or relief, from anger or affection, and from joy or frustration. Conditions that can evoke laughter include shyness, triumph, surprise, tickling, a funny story, an incongruous situation, a sense of well-being associated with good health, and a desire to conceal ones inner thoughts. 29

D. G. KEHL CITING JAMES THURBER There are a dozen different kinds of laughter, from the inner and inaudible to the guffaw, taking in such variants as the laughter of shock, embarrassment, the she-laughed-so-IIaughed-too, and even the helaughed-so-I-didnt laugh. 30 Del Kehl went on to divide laughter into ascending degrees of intensity:

There is the simper or smirk, the snicker or snigger, the titter, the giggle, the chuckle, the simple laugh, the cackle, the cachinnation, the chortle, the belly laugh, the horse laugh, the Olympian or Homeric laugh, the guffaw, the boff or boffo, the crack up, the roar, the yowl or howl, the bellow, the hoot, and the shriek. 31 TICKLING People who laugh from being tickled are

not necessarily put in a more receptive mood for enjoying the humor in jokes. This is because laughing from being tickled occurs in a part of the brain different from where laughter that is intellectually stimulated occurs. 32 Furthermore, people cannot tickle themselves because the cerebelum in the lower back of the

brain somehow sends an interfering message to the part of the brain that controls laughter. 33 FINAL CONTRAST OF HUMOR AND SMILING Anthony Chapman did a study in which he compared the actions of a group of children who knew they were being observed with a group who did not know they were being observed.

The children who knew they were being watched laughed four times as often as did those in the other group. However, they smiled only half as much. 34 PARADOXICAL CONCLUSION Anthony Chapman concluded not only that laughter can be good or bad, depending on the situation. But he also concluded that humor is both the

cause for laughter, and the result of laughter. Thats why humor and laughter are so closely associated. 35 LAUGHTER WEB SITES Color-Changing Card Trick: The Happiness Machine: Selective Attention Test:


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