Laughter Theoretics 2/4
The incongruity theory


Humour, Laughter, Theoretics


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In Ancient Times the Greek philosopher Plato was the first one to give an answer to the question why do people laugh. He stated that you are laughing because you are feeling better the person in front of you. According to Plato laughing equals laughing someone out.

After Plato many other people have been thinking about laughter and humour.

You laugh because you want to create a bond with the other person, to let the other person know how great you like him or her. If a friend tells you a good joke, you probably will laugh very loudly. But will you also laugh when the joke is being told by your not so friendly neighbor ?

Here is part 2 out of 4 about the different theories about humour.

The incongruity theory

The Britannica (2002) states: ‘[humour is] the perceiving of a situation in two self-consistent, but mutually incompatible frames of reference or associative contexts.’ Humour is ‘a form of communication in which a complex mental stimulus illuminates or amuses, or elicits the reflex of laughter.’ This definition of humour is described as the theory of incongruity. In his book Taking Laughter Seriously, Morreall (1983) explains the difference between the theory of superiority and the theory of incongruity. The first has to do with emotions or feelings and the second with the ability to learn. In the theory of incongruity, the ‘amusement’ is an intellectual reaction to something unexpected, illogical or improper behaviour. So in essence, the theory of incongruity has to do with the sudden opposed expectation when laughing is invoked. This can be explained with the following:

A lady tells her next door neighbour her dream she had had the night before. She told that she was in heaven and saw three doors, two tiny ones and a big one in the middle. She opened one of the tiny doors and saw everyone at peace with one another. She closed that door and opened the other tiny door and there she saw angles playing beautiful music. The neighbour asked her: “Did you open the big door?” And she answered that she tried. She pushed and pushed against the door but she couldn’t get the door to open. Just as she was about to give up, Peter came along and offered help. Together they pushed with great effort and then suddenly the door opened. She dropped into the room and there she was in front of God. The neighbour exclaimed “Good lord what did God say?” Well He smiled and said: “It jams, doesn’t it?”.

What do you think about this theory?

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