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A New Perspective On Laughter And Humor.


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In this essay I hypothesize that the laughter elicited by the processing of what we characterize as humorous events is an exapted vocal fight-or-flight displacement response. The circumstances in which displacement activities and laughing occur, and their general physiological effects, are compared, and neurophysiological evidence connecting laughter to "fight or flight" responses is presented. The relationship between laughter and humor is examined and an argument put forward against the use of the word "humor" other than as a heading of a general study as it defies any clear definition that can be meaningfully applied outside its cultural usage. The nature of the basic conflicts that cause animals and humans to indulge in displacement activities is considered in the context of joke structure, content and emotive effects. The endorphin/ laughter controversy is discussed and a possible explanation of laughter's immunological effects is given.


For the full essay go to: https://sites.google.com/site/basilhughhall/anewtheoryoflaughterandhumor

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If you look at political humor, for example, the jokes sort of lower the prestige of an elected official by presenting that person in a less than flattering way. In terms of the irrationality of laughter, if one's original assessment of the elected official is too inflated, with respect to he joke, the comedy can be seen as an insult. If one begins with a lower assessment, the comedy is much more effective.


For example, if you really like President Obama, a joke may feel personal and one may get defensive. If you are not an President Obama fan, the same joke might be funny. This can apply to anyone who happens to be in the joke limelight. In the first case, fight/flight sort of applies. But in the second case, there is an attraction to the jokes since one feels happy laughing and is waiting for another dose.


If you were into proper language, going to a comedy show full of swear words would seem insulting. But if one is used to this language it can be funnier. The fight/flight (get mad or walk out) is stronger the farther the two belief systems are (personal versus joke). As these two things come closer, so there is less potential, fight/flight reverses to an attraction. There should be a threshold place in the middle where flight/flight and attraction sort of cancel for no reaction (yawn). Someone who doesn't get jokes neither gets mad or laughs. The joke does not trigger a potential with anything inside their mind, since they can't make such a connection, so they remain in that yawn place between.

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