Article

Laughter and electroencephalographic activity

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Abstract

The electrical activity of the brain shows rapid changes associated with information processing. Waveform components within an event-related brain potential (ERP) triggered by a stimulus are indicators of subsequent perceptual and cognitive processing. A positive wave at about 300 milliseconds (P300) following the presentation of a stimulus indicates the activity of categorization while a negative wave at about 400 milliseconds (N400) corresponds with a disruption and possible extension of the categorization process. This "incongruity" wave prompted speculation that similar neural activity might occur in humor. In a pilot study one participant showed clear evidence of P300 and N400 over the whole cortex when responding to humorous stimuli. A subsequent experiment attempted to manipulate the mood of additional subjects prior to the presentation of the humorous stimuli. ERP activity was used to compare jokes that did or did not elicit laughter. Although the mood manipulation resulted in only weak and inconsistent subjective and behavioral changes, there was some evidence of cortical changes. More significantly, jokes that did not produce laughter showed no evidence of the N400 while those that elicited laughter did show this electrical pattern of disrupted categorization.

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... There is only one published study that suggests P3like alterations in responses to humorous stimuli (Derks, Gillikin, Bartolome-Rull, & Bogart, 1997). In this study, responses to humorous punch lines were found to be more positive within the P3 latency window than responses to nonhumorous sentence endings. ...
... Moreover, the amplitude, duration, and spatial distribution of this component differed in good and poor joke comprehenders. In the other study, larger N400 amplitudes were found in responses to jokes that evoked laughter compared with those that did not (Derks et al., 1997). In addition, these differences tended to be larger if the recipient was in a positive mood. ...
... The small number of electrodes could be glued to subject's skin providing not only better comfort but also better stability. Both the P3 components (Naumann, Huber et al., 1992) and N400 components (Connolly & Philips, 1994;Coulson & Kutas 2001;Derks et al., 1997;Kutas & Hillyard, 1980a,b) were reported to be close to maximal in midline locations. Also, the effects of incongruity in Stroop stimuli (Liotti et al., 2000;Rebai et al., 1997) and the effects of priming (Barret & Rugg, 1990;Holcomb & McPherson, 1994;McPherson & Holcomb, 1999) were known to be well-pronounced in midline recordings. ...
Article
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The aim of the present study was to search for event-related potential (ERP) correlates of processing pictures commonly described as "funny" but not preceded by the apparent "context-setting" phase. Three pairs of stimuli were used: (1) famous cartoon characters and images of household objects, (2) pictures reminiscent of a recently seen joke and similar pictures that did not produce such associations, (3) funny caricatures and drawings of neutral human faces. ERP differences in each pair were analyzed in two experiments. In the first experiment, both stimuli were targets in an "oddball" procedure, presented among the more frequent green disks. In the second experiment, they were both nontargets whereas the green disks were task-relevant. Both experiments and all pairs of stimuli produced similar results. ERPs for funny pictures were consistently more positive within the broad latency windows, resembling the effects of emotional arousal. Negative deflections, typical for incongruity processing, were not found. Such results indicated that these types of "humorous" images belonged to the class of affective stimuli that produced attentional reallocation of processing resources. The cognitive phase during which incongruity is detected and resolved was probably reduced to minimum or even absent. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
... Previous ERP studies on joke comprehension have led to heterogeneous evidence regarding N400 effects. Derks et al. (1997) found augmented N400 amplitudes for jokes that also elicited a higher activation of the zygomatic muscle, indicating the elicitation of positive emotions. Coulson and Kutas (2001) found an N400 effect for joke endings involving frame shifting compared to straight endings. ...
... As hypothesized and in line with previous findings (Derks et al., 1997;Coulson and Kutas, 2001), joke endings elicited more negative ERP amplitudes at central electrode sites compared to the coherent endings between 250 and 500 ms after the onset of the final word. As can be seen in Figure 3A, this increased negativity over the vertex was accompanied by a frontal positivity, reflecting the polarity reversal of centro-parietal negativity due to the average reference applied here. ...
Article
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In so-called garden-path jokes, an initial semantic representation is violated, and semantic revision reestablishes a coherent representation. 48 jokes were manipulated in three conditions: (i) a coherent ending, (ii) a joke ending, and (iii) a discourse-incoherent ending. A reading times study (N = 24) and three studies with recordings of ERP and pupil changes (N = 21, 24, and 24, respectively) supported the hypothesized cognitive processes. Jokes showed increased reading times of the final word compared to coherent endings. ERP data mainly indicated semantic integration difficulties (N400). Larger pupil diameters to joke endings presumably reflect emotional responses. ERP evidence for increased discourse processing efforts and emotional responses, as assumed to be reflected in modulations of the late left anterior negativity (LLAN) and in an enhanced late frontal positivity (fP600), respectively, remains however incomplete. Processing of incoherent endings was also accompanied by increased reading times, a stronger and sustained N400, and context-sensitive P600 effects. Together, these findings provide evidence for a sequential, non-monotonic, and incremental discourse comprehension of garden-path jokes.
... This pattern was not confirmed in its schematism by subsequent research. For instance, Derks et al. (1997) recorded cortical electrical activity of subjects while hearing jokes and they found that the activity was present in both hemispheres. Further research has described more articulated patterns of the cortex functioning in networks (see Wild et al. 2003;Bartolo et al. 2006;Coulson and Severens 2007). ...
... Since then, there has been a stream of investigation which has yielded interesting findings. A suggestive one was obtained by Derks et al. (1997). By means of the analysis of ERP (event-related potentials) they could describe a typical cortical combination of a positive wave with 300-ms latency (P300) and a negative wave 400 ms (N400) after the stimulus had been perceived. ...
Article
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... This pattern was not confirmed in its schematism by subsequent research. For instance, Derks et al. (1997) recorded cortical electrical activity of subjects while hearing jokes and they found that the activity was present in both hemispheres. Further research has described more articulated patterns of the cortex functioning in networks (see Wild et al. 2003;Bartolo et al. 2006;Coulson and Severens 2007). ...
... Since then, there has been a stream of investigation which has yielded interesting findings. A suggestive one was obtained by Derks et al. (1997). By means of the analysis of ERP (event-related potentials) they could describe a typical cortical combination of a positive wave with 300-ms latency (P300) and a negative wave 400 ms (N400) after the stimulus had been perceived. ...
Article
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Studies devoted to cognitive aspects in the humor process have attached increasing importance to the perception of incongruity. This concept offers extremely fertile ground for investigation in theoretical-experimental terms, as revealed by studies undertaken mainly in the early 1970s and subse-quently. In particular, a stimulating debate has grown up over its role and over the need for and function of the “resolution” of incongruity in the humor experience (for appreciation and understanding). The terms of the debate are taken up in the light of several classic studies into incongruity (and correlated concepts). The author then submits a contribution based on the definition of “incongruity” as “divergence from a cognitive model of reference” and of “resolution” as “cognitive mastery.” Seen from this perspective, both the perception of the incongruity and its resolution are essential components for the humor process. Last, significant indications are given concerning the need to step up research into the interactions between the cognitive dimension and other aspects of the personality (espe-cially the affective dimension), in which the concept of incongruity appears as a bridge concept.
... N400 is a negative ERP whose peak occurs approximately 400 ms after a stimulus onset, and its activity is at its maximum around the central scalp site. In language processing, a word that is semantically incongruent from its context elicits large N400 (Kutas & Hillyard, 1980, 1984Katayama et al., 1987;Arbel et al., 2011;Kutas & Federmeier, 2011;Weimer et al., 2019); thus, the N400 in humor processing has been thought to reflect incongruity detection (Derks et al., 1997;Coulson & Kutas, 2001;Du et al., 2013;Feng et al., 2014;Ku et al., 2017). On the other hand, P600 is a positive ERP which has a slow peak and delayed activity, and which is centered at posterior site. ...
Article
This study examined the relationship between two cognitive stages of humor processing (i.e., detecting incongruity and resolving it) and the subjective feeling of humor, using event-related brain potentials (ERPs). Unlike traditional English jokes, Japanese nazokake puns have a structure in which the detection of incongruity and the resolution of it are separated, which enabled this study to observe the ERPs for these two stages independently. In addition, to investigate how the cognitive stages work when people subjectively find a pun funny, the ERPs elicited by funny and unfunny puns, categorized according to participants’ subjective ratings, were compared. This subjective feeling has not received enough attention in previous literature. The results showed that N400 and P600 responses occurred during the incongruity detection stage and the resolution stage, respectively. Furthermore, funny puns enlarged the P600 amplitude compared to unfunny ones, but the N400 amplitude did not significantly differ between the funniness categories. These findings indicate that the resolution stage of humor processing is related to the subjective feeling of humor, rather than the incongruity detection stage.
... This is not to say that such correlational data is not relevant or important. Only that we must be extremely cautious about what can, and about what cannot, be inferred from such information  For examples of just such studies, see Derks et al. 1997;Ozawa et al. 2000;Coulson and Kutas 2001;Iwase et al. 2002;Mobbs 2003;Moran et al. 2004;Watson, Matthews and Allman 2007;McGettigan et al. 2015;Chen et al. 2017;Chan et al. 2018;Hofmann and Rodden 2019. alone. ...
Article
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This paper explores the current obstacles that a cognitive theory of humor faces. More specifically, I argue that the nebulous and ill-defined nature of humor makes it difficult to tell what counts as clear instances of, and deficits in, the phenomenon.Without getting clear on this, we cannot identify the underlying cognitive mechanisms responsible for humor. Moreover, being too quick to draw generalizations regarding the ubiquity of humor, or its uniqueness to humans, without substantially clarifying the phenomenon and its occurrences is not only unwise but can actually be a detriment to our study of humor. As such, these sorts of claims must be resisted. I conclude the paper by pointing the way forward to addressing these obstacles.
... Semantic presuppositions are a kind of conventional inference linked to the linguistic form of the words used in the text (Rodríguez Rosique 2009, 32), whereas pragmatic presuppositions are a kind of inference linked with the shared knowledge and the socio-cultural suppositions (Horn 2000;Abbott 2006;Padilla 2010). Derks (1997) has demonstrated, by studying electro-encephalic activity, that there is a negative ongoing cortical activity (N400) linked with what has been called "humorous incongruity." ...
Chapter
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Humour, together with poetry and metaphors, is one of the most difficult aspects of human language a translator can encounter. However, humour is part of our daily lives in many different shapes and formats, graphic jokes being one of those. The aim of this paper is to show the results of a study, based on a corpus of 100 Italian and Spanish graphic jokes, about how irony and humour work. On the other hand, the pragmatic analysis used for this study will be proposed as an efficient and useful tool to facilitate and improve the translator's task when he or she comes across humour translation.
... Derks, Gillikin, BartolomeRull, & Bogart (1997) 1.2 (resolution) Ziv, 1984 ) 2 2 30 (Heath & Blonder, 2005) (Rothbart & Pien, 1977) Suls (1972,1977,1983 1 1.3.3 (LeDoux, 1996;Damasio, 2003) 4 4 ...
Article
The purpose of this study is to propose and test a model that integrates the incongruity model and the incongruity-resolution model, both of which explain cognitive aspects of the humor process. In the former, the direct cause of humor is incongruity, that is, discrepancy between expectations and actual states, whereas in the latter, it is a resolution of incongruity. In other words, it is a problem solving activity to find a cognitive rule that removes incongruity. The author hypothesized that the direct cause of humor is not resolution but incongruity, and the process of resolution interrupts conscious experience of humor by occupying one's attention. In Experiment 1, subjects read four-frame comic strips while remembering six-digit, three-digit or no numbers. The results showed that the humor rating was lower in the six-figure condition, although no difference was detected in humor comprehension. This suggested that (a) immersion in cognitive activity interrupts the humor experience. In Experiment 2, four-frame comic strips were presented while parts were hidden that either had no relation to humor or included essential cue for resolution. Then the parts were presented after a 5 or 15 second delay. Participants were asked to predict what was hidden during the delay. The results showed that delay decreased humor rating not only in the former condition but also in the latter condition. The effect of delay in the former condition implied (b) temporariness of humor, which was evoked when the stimuli were presented, while in the latter condition it implied that (c) humor as an emotional state could be evoked without resolution. Though the results of the two experiments supported the hypotheses of the author's model, these hypotheses were not sufficiently verified due to methodological problems.
... Therefore, humour processing is assumed to be a complex information-processing task, relying heavily on intellectual as well as other cognitive abilities (e.g. Derks et al. 1997;Greengross and Miller 2011;Shammi and Stuss 1999;Vrticka et al. 2013). ...
Article
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Humour processing is a complex information-processing task that is dependent on cognitive and emotional aspects which presumably influence frame-shifting and conceptual blending, mental operations that underlie humour processing. The aim of the current study was to find distinctive groups of subjects with respect to black humour processing, intellectual capacities, mood disturbance and aggressiveness. A total of 156 adults rated black humour cartoons and conducted measurements of verbal and nonverbal intelligence, mood disturbance and aggressiveness. Cluster analysis yields three groups comprising following properties: (1) moderate black humour preference and moderate comprehension; average nonverbal and verbal intelligence; low mood disturbance and moderate aggressiveness; (2) low black humour preference and moderate comprehension; average nonverbal and verbal intelligence, high mood disturbance and high aggressiveness; and (3) high black humour preference and high comprehension; high nonverbal and verbal intelligence; no mood disturbance and low aggressiveness. Age and gender do not differ significantly, differences in education level can be found. Black humour preference and comprehension are positively associated with higher verbal and nonverbal intelligence as well as higher levels of education. Emotional instability and higher aggressiveness apparently lead to decreased levels of pleasure when dealing with black humour. These results support the hypothesis that humour processing involves cognitive as well as affective components and suggest that these variables influence the execution of frame-shifting and conceptual blending in the course of humour processing.
... 20 Semantic presuppositions are a type of conventional inferences, that is, linked to the form of the words used (Rodríguez Rosique, 2009:32), whereas pragmatic presuppositions are a type of inference associated with shared knowledge and socio-cultural premises (See Horn, 2000;Abbott, 2006). 21 See Derks (1997). 22 See Attardo (1994). ...
Chapter
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This chapter has as its main aim to reflect on humorous communication taking as a reference the graphic jokes (or cartoons) which appear in the Spanish press.
... There are many general benefits of laughter including health (e.g., enhanced immune function, pain reduction, stress relief ). With respect to pedagogical factors, laughter improves catecholamine levels, which increase mental functioning (Fry, 1984); and helps the functioning of both hemispheres of the brain (Derks, Bogart, Bartolome-Rull, & Gillikin, 1997;Goldstein, 1976;Svebak, 1982), which has a direct impact on learning; and inducing laughter prior to and during a topic primes students' brains to increase alertness and memory. Following laughter, there is also greater interpersonal responsiveness in question and answer sessions and cooperative learning activities. ...
Article
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Lowman (1995) described the relationship between teacher and student and student engagement as the two most important ingredients in learning in higher education. Humour builds teacher-student connection (Berk, 1998) and engages students in the learning process. The bond between student and teacher is essential for learning, satisfaction, and retention. Humour helps students to learn better, remember more, improve problem-solving, absorb and retain information more quickly, and reduce their anxiety about subjects like math and science. Humour also reduces classroom management problems. This essay reviews research findings that support the use of humour in teaching and it provides strategies that teachers can use to bring more humour into their classrooms.
... Humour creates interesting activation effects on the brain, perhaps stimulating right hemisphere activation and drawing more brain processing into a given task . For example, one study demonstrated that a large portion of both hemispheres is engaged in processing of jokes (Derks, Gillikin et al, 1997). In fact, broad patterns of activation probably occur for most types of humour. ...
... Par exemple, Coulson et Kutas (2001) ont identifié les processus de reconnaissance et de résolution de l'incongruité lors de la présentation de blagues. Toutefois, contrairement aux résultats de Derks, Gillikin, Bartolome-Rull et Bogart (1997), ces auteurs considèrent que le chevauchement temporel observé des ondes P300 et N400 ne permet pas de conclure à un traitement de l'humour en deux étapes nettement successives. Bartolo, Benuzzi, Nocetti, Baraldi et Nichelli (2006) ont constaté, eux aussi, une co-occurrence entre la détection de l'incongruité et sa résolution. ...
Article
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Selon Suls (1972) l’humour met en scène une incongruité qui pro-voque la surprise. La résolution de cette incongruité provoqueraitle rire. L’objectif de cette synthèse est de souligner que la théoriede Suls (1972) est insuffisante, car elle ne permet pas d’identifiersuffisamment les différentes opérations cognitives et la palette desémotions qui en découle. Cette synthèse comporte quatre parties.La première présente le modèle de Suls (1972) et les recherchesqui le soutiennent. La deuxième partie présente certains résultatsqui ne peuvent être interprétés dans le strict cadre de la théoriede Suls (1972). La troisième partie présente les travaux sur lesémotions associées au traitement de l’humour. Dans la dernièrepartie, certains des résultats majeurs des expériences présentéessont regroupés en un modèle procédural afin d’orienter les futuresétudes vers l’analyse des relations entre les traitements cognitifs etles émotions associées lors de la compréhension de l’humour.
... Constance Reece (1998) found no significant differences between genders in the use of humor by managers, and only that women preferred situational over canned humor. Some researchers are now using EEG (Derks, Gillikin, Bartolome-Rull, & Bogart, 1997) and fMRI (Ozawa et al., 2000) equipment to study the brain as it responds to humor. The results of these projects will update and enhance our understanding of humor. ...
Article
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The repatriated Vietnam prisoners of war are suffering almost no mental illness, and the effective use of humor seems to be one of the reasons for their health. The literature by and about prisoners of war from several recent wars indicates prisoners often found humor to be an effective coping mechanism, a way of fighting back and taking control. By defining humor as an element of communication and by thinking of resilience as a communication phenomenon, the links between humor and resilience become more apparent. This was a qualitative study that consisted of interviewing approximately 50 Vietnam POWs in unstructured interviews and 12 Vietnam POWs in a structured, topical format. Chronicling the subjective accounts of these men and framing them as communication allowed an examination of the results. Knowing that human connection contributed to the survival and resilience of these men implies that resilience is contagious, as humor seems to be. Through the creation of humor in a well-defined system of social support, these fiercely independent men learned to rely on their own power and to draw a sense of mastery from each other.
... We are planning to evaluate the validity of this distinction and other aspect of our approach such as the different weights of textual content and interactivity to the humor appreciation. We aim to use the system as a generator of surprising stimuli for cognitive experiments focused on the measure of event-related potentials (ERPs) (Coulson and Williams 2005) (Derks et al. 1997). ...
Conference Paper
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We aim to identify and control unintentional humor occurring in human-computer interaction, and recreate it intentionally. In this research we focus on text prediction systems, a type of interactive programs employed in mobile phones, search engines, and word processors. More specifically, we identified two design principles, inspired by humor and emotion theories, and implemented them in a proof-of-concept tool simulating a specific type of text prediction. Computer programs do not always work as well as we would like. Even though they are generally designed to respond efficiently to users ’ needs, they sometimes make foolish mistakes that make them look less smart than expected. In some cases these events are unexpectedly funny. Our aim
... These results are consistent with Jung-Beeman's recent discussion of bilateral processes for comprehending natural language (Jung-Beeman, 2005). Finally, consistent with our earlier study (Chan et al., 2012) and with earlier research (Bartolo et al., 2006;Derks et al., 1997;Svebak, 1982), the present study found that humor processing involves both the left and the right hemisphere, and both the cortex and the subcortex. ...
... Svebak (1982) found coordinated activity across both hemispheres when participants watched a comedy film. Derks et al. (1997) also found activity in both hemispheres in an event-related potential study of joke comprehension and appreciation. In the present study, we found greater activation across the whole brain to deal with both comprehension and elaboration during humor processing. ...
... SeeFigure 2. Besides, it is interesting that systematic gender differences have been found regarding patterns of activation in cortical, hemispheric, and mesolimbic structures in response to humoristic stimuli (Azim et al., 2005); and that the mesolimbic structures activated by laughter and humor include the nucleus accumbens, a key component of the mesolimbic dopaminergic reward system (Mobbs et al., 2003). Clasical EEG studies have also generated an ample literature on cortical " wave " events accompanying laughter onset and perception of humorous stimuli and (Derks et al., 1997).Figure 2. Left: the traditional view of laughter and crying circuits, emphasizing how two separate pathways conduce to activation of the specific laughter and crying center (LCC). Right: the cerebellum's role is emphasized, appearing as the processing center where a certain profile and level of emotional response is computed according to signals received from the telencephalic structures, in which emotional –competent stimuli as well as the relevant cognitive/social context are processed. ...
Article
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Purpose The purpose of this paper is to present a new core hypothesis on laughter. It has been built by putting together ideas from several disciplines: neurodynamics, evolutionary neurobiology, social networks, and communication studies. The hypothesis focusses on the social nature of laughter and contributes to ascertain its evolutionary origins in connection with the cognitive and social-emotional functions it performs. Design/methodology/approach An in-depth examination of laughter in the social communication context and along the life cycle of the individual is performed. This instinctive behaviour that appears as a “virtual”, non-physical form of “grooming” would serve as a bond-making instrument in human groups. Further, the neurodynamic events underlying laughter production – and particularly the form of the neural entropy gradients – are congruent with a sentic hypothesis about the different emotional contents of laughter and their specific effects on bonding dynamics. Findings The new behavioural and neurodynamic tenets introduced about this unusual sound feature of our species justify the ubiquitous presence it has in social interactions at large and along the life cycle of the individual. Laughter, far from being a curious evolutionary relic or a rather inconsequential innate behaviour, should be considered as a highly efficient tool for inter-individual problem solving and for maintenance of social bonds. Originality/value Laughter, the authors would conclude, has been evolutionarily kept and augmented as an optimized tool for unconscious cognitive-emotional problem solving, and at the same time as a useful way to preserve the essential fabric of social bonds in close-knit groups and within human societies at large.
... In a study of cortical electrical activity associated with humour information processing, Derks and colleagues reported a peak of activity in event-related potentials (ERPs) ~300 ms after hearing the punch-line of a joke (Derks et al., 1997). This was followed by a general depolarization ~100 ms later. ...
Article
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Although laughter and humour have been constituents of humanity for thousands if not millions of years, their systematic study has begun only recently. Investigations into their neurological correlates remain fragmentary and the following review is a first attempt to collate and evaluate these studies, most of which have been published over the last two decades. By employing the classical methods of neurology, brain regions associated with symptomatic (pathological) laughter have been determined and catalogued under other diagnostic signs and symptoms of such conditions as epilepsy, strokes and circumspect brain lesions. These observations have been complemented by newer studies using modern non-invasive imaging methods. To summarize the results of many studies, the expression of laughter seems to depend on two partially independent neuronal pathways. The first of these, an 'involuntary' or 'emotionally driven' system, involves the amygdala, thalamic/hypo- and subthalamic areas and the dorsal/tegmental brainstem. The second, 'voluntary' system originates in the premotor/frontal opercular areas and leads through the motor cortex and pyramidal tract to the ventral brainstem. These systems and the laughter response appear to be coordinated by a laughter-coordinating centre in the dorsal upper pons. Analyses of the cerebral correlates of humour have been impeded by a lack of consensus among psychologists on exactly what humour is, and of what essential components it consists. Within the past two decades, however, sufficient agreement has been reached that theory-based hypotheses could be formulated and tested with various non-invasive methods. For the perception of humour (and depending on the type of humour involved, its mode of transmission, etc.) the right frontal cortex, the medial ventral prefrontal cortex, the right and left posterior (middle and inferior) temporal regions and possibly the cerebellum seem to be involved to varying degrees. An attempt has been made to be as thorough as possible in documenting the foundations upon which these burgeoning areas of research have been based up to the present time.
... The context's influence can be observed even in early components like N1 (Sereno, Brewer & Donnell, 2003). Figurative language is a recent subject of study (Cf: Bailey, Braeutigam, Thompson, & Swithenby, 2002; Derks, Gillikin, Bartolome-Rull, & Bogart, 1997; Pynte, Besson, Robinchon, & Poli, 1996). For example, the amplitude modulations of N400 component have been recently studied in relation with metaphoric and humoristic language (Coulson & Kutas, 2001; Coulson & Williams, 2005). ...
Article
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We explore the hypothesis that induction of holistic or analytic strategies influences comprehension and processing of highly contextualized expressions of ordinary language, such as irony. Twenty undergraduate students were asked to categorize as coherent or incoherent a group of sentences. Each sentence completed a previous story, so that they could be ironical, literal or nonsensical endings. Participants were asked to evaluate whether each sentence was coherent or incoherent. Half of them were initially instructed to consider whether the sentences made sense (holistic condition); the other half were instructed to consider whether the sentences were congruent or incongruent (analytic condition). Behavioral responses and Event Related Potentials were registered during the experiment. Both behavioral and electrophysiological results allow clearly distinguishing between the holistic and the analytic strategies. The fact that the same set of stimuli elicits different ERP waveforms, depending on the strategy with which they are analyzed, suggests that different cognitive processes and different areas of the brain are operating in each case.
... Constance Reece (1998) found no significant differences between genders in the use of humor by managers, and only that women preferred situational over canned humor. Some researchers are now using EEG (Derks, Gillikin, Bartolome-Rull, & Bogart, 1997) and fMRI (Ozawa et al., 2000) equipment to study the brain as it responds to humor. The results of these projects will update and enhance our understanding of humor. ...
Article
Everybody loves humor. In the workplace, it can provide such benefits as stress relief, team unification, employee motivation, idea generation, and frustration diffusion through venting. Despite these positives, it should be stressed that humor in this context has downsides, as well. For example, humor can distract us from the job at hand, hurt our credibility, or cause offense in increasingly diverse work settings. In the midst of this complicated situation stand managers, who occupy a position of responsibility for both the good and bad effects of humor in the workplace. It is the intention of this article to use existing humor theory and a simple model to generate a more analytical understanding of humorous interaction. Suggestions are then offered as to how to use humor and manage the use of humor in such a way as to maximize its benefits, while minimizing its dangers.
Chapter
Smiling and laughter are voluntary expressions that come from deep within ourselves. They are reflections of the character we construct through the exercise of our own will. Given that we can laugh in an ethically correct or incorrect manner, an “ethical sense of humour” reflects to what extent an individual’s ethics education has been correctly taught. “Ethical humour” is also therapeutic, in the sense that it is beneficial for one’s health. For example, it stimulates the immune system to fight the negative effects of stress, and stimulates the secretion of endorphins, which have an analgesic effect. Neuroscientific studies have demonstrated, among other things, that the cerebellum plays an important role in modulating the intensity and duration of laughter, and even inhibits it, but this does not indicate when this modulation is correct, and this can only be provided by a reflection on the ethics of humour. The fundamental aspect of ethical humour is that it is practised at the appropriate time and place and to the proper degree, and seeks to promote virtues such as patience, tolerance, kindness, humility, perseverance and courage. The practice of these virtues provides an opportunity to foster improvements in healthcare ethics. Humour also contributes to the rationalisation of what has occurred and prevents thoughtless emotional responses. Following a reflection on these issue over the course of this chapter the concluding discussion sets out the view that neuroscientific studies on humour should employ a concept of “ethical humour” in order to ensure that their results can be implemented to improve healthcare. In relation to this it is proposed that a line of neuroeducation concerned with ethical humour needs to be developed.
Chapter
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Humour, together with poetry and metaphors, is one of the most difficult aspects of human language a translator can encounter. However, humour is part of our daily lives in many different shapes and formats, graphic jokes being one of those. The aim of this paper is to show the results of a study, based on a corpus of 100 Italian and Spanish graphic jokes, about how irony and humour work. On the other hand, the pragmatic analysis used for this study will be proposed as an efficient and useful tool to facilitate and improve the translator's task when he or she comes across humour translation.
Article
Reported brain abnormalities in anatomy and function in patients with narcolepsy with cataplexy led to a project based on qualitative electroencephalography examination and analysis in an attempt to find a narcolepsy with cataplexy-specific brain-derived pattern, or a sequence of brain locations involved in processing humorous stimuli. Laughter is the trigger of cataplexy in these patients, and the difference between patients and healthy controls during the laughter should therefore be notable. Twenty-six adult patients (14 male, 12 female) suffering from narcolepsy with cataplexy and 10 healthy controls (five male, five female) were examined. The experiment was performed using a 256-channel electroencephalogram and then processed using specialized software built according to the scientific research team's specifications. The software utilizes electroencephalographic data recorded during elevated emotional states in participants to calculate the sequence of brain areas involved in emotion processing using non-linear and linear algorithms. Results show significant differences in activation (pre-laughter) patterns between the patients with narcolepsy and healthy controls, as well as significant similarities within the patients and the controls. Specifically, gyrus orbitalis, rectus and occipitalis inferior are active in healthy controls, while gyrus paracentralis, cingularis and cuneus are activated solely in the patients in response to humorous audio stimulus. There are qualitative electroencephalographic-based patterns clearly discriminating between patients with narcolepsy and healthy controls during laughter processing.
Article
Objective: Reported brain abnormalities in anatomy and function in psychiatric and neurological patients led to a project based on qualitative electroencephalography examination and analysis in an attempt to find specific brain derived pattern - or sequence of brain locations involved in processing various stimuli - both visual and auditory. Methods: Specialized software called Brain Activation Sequences was built according to our team member specifications (M.S.). The software utilizes event related potentials recorded during cognitive/emotion processing in participants (healthy controls, neurological patients and psychiatric patients) to calculate the sequence of brain areas using nonlinear and linear algorithms. Results: Results show significant differences in activation patterns between patients and healthy controls as well as significant similarities within the groups of patients and controls in both performed testing experiments.
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The study of human non-verbal social behaviors has taken a more quantitative and computational approach in recent years, due to the development of smart interfaces and virtual agents or robots able to interact socially. One of the most interesting non-verbal social behaviors, producing a characteristic vocal signal, is laughing. Laughter is produced in several different situations: in response to external physical, cognitive, or emotional stimuli; to negotiate social interactions; and also, pathologically, as a consequence of neural damage. For this reason, laughter has attracted researchers from many disciplines. A consequence of this multidisciplinarity is the absence of a holistic vision of this complex behavior: the methods of analysis and classification of laughter, as well as the terminology used, are heterogeneous; the findings sometimes contradictory and poorly documented. This survey aims at collecting and presenting objective measurement methods and results from a variety of different studies in different fields, to contribute to build a unified model and taxonomy of laughter. This could be successfully used for advances in several fields, from artificial intelligence and human-robot interaction, to medicine and psychiatry.
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According to Suls (1972), humor relies on the simultaneous perception of a situation from the perspective of two self-consistent but normally incompatible frames of reference, namely incongruity. The subsequent resolution of the incongruity triggers positive emotional states such as mirth. The aim of the present question review is to highlight that Suls’ theory, though crucial, is insufficient, because it does not sufficiently allow to identify the various assessment processes and the range of emotion that may arise. The present question review is based on four parts. The first part presents the Incongruity-Resolution's model and the supporting research. The second presents four sets of results, which cannot be interpreted in the narrow framework of Suls’ theory. The third part presents empirical research on emotion, highlighting the importance of surprise, as well as positive and negative emotions triggered by humor process. Finally, in the fourth part, we propose a cognitivo-emotional model established on the main results described in this article in order to both complete Suls’ theory and to promote the study of the relationship between the cognitive and emotional aspects of humor.
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The advent of new technologies for assay of physiologic functions has presented opportunity for extending scientific knowledge of brain activity during humor experiences. Making use of that opportunity has been slow in humor research. However, numerous studies ostensibly dedicated to exploration in other disciplines can be recognized to have contributed findings that can be translated into humor-related phenomena, and thus provide data and encouragement for explicit humor research in the field. This article reports results of examination of the literature relevant in this regard. Surveys and analyses of several of such articles are presented, with the aim of making specific data available for humor research, expanding appreciation of underlying continuities between humor studies and studies in other fields, indicating research areas of particularly rich potential for explicit humor study and providing yet further evidences of the deep and extended involvements of humor in human functioning.
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This article describes ethological analyses of the arts, and notes parallels between the arts and humor. Artists create novel, mentally challenging, informative stimulus arrays that exploit our evolved stimulus preferences. We appreciate these artistic offerings, and reward the artist. Similarly, jokes are informative, elegant, and appreciated. As in the arts and in primate social play, the humorist signals an intention to entertain and then provides the enriching experience. The recipient acknowledges this benefit, and returns the favor somehow; both parties gain in fitness. This explanation, that humor is edifying and mutually beneficial, is consistent with various features of humor and with evolutionary theory. For example, jokes often have a butt, from whom we can learn to avoid missteps. Similarly, jokes often pertain to fitness-salient topics such as sex. This theory is contrasted with other functional explanations. Research findings in neuroscience, genetics, and animal behavior are integrated with the theory.
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In this paper we propose a theoretical model for laughter originating from either cognitive or non-cognitive sources (humor and tickling, respectively). The model is based on a modified forced Van der Pol type equation that mimics the respiratory output. The model is quite comprehensive and appears able to qualitatively describe not only the origins of laughter, but non-human laugh-like vocalizations, as well as yawning. The results of the model compare favorably with empirical measurements, as well as the effects reported in the literature involving direct brain stimulation.
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The neurophysiological study of emotion regulation focused on the strategy of reappraisal-i.e., the cognitive reinterpretation of a stimulus. Reappraisal reduces emotional expression, the experience of both negative and positive feelings, and the amplitude of an event-related potential (ERP)-the late positive potential (LPP). In contrast, the strategy of expressive suppression (ES), being the inhibition of emotional expression, has been reported to reduce subjective feelings of positive, but not negative emotion, and has not yet been investigated with ERPs. We focused on the LPP to assess the correlates of ES in the context of humor perception. Twenty-two female participants rated sequences of humorous (H) and non-humorous (NH) pictures, while their zygomaticus muscle was recorded. A spontaneous (SP) condition, in which participants attended naturally to the pictures, resulted in higher ratings of funniness, increased smiling, and increased LPP amplitude for H compared to NH stimuli. An ES condition, in which participants suppressed their facial reactions, resulted in reduced smiling, without affecting subjective ratings. LPP amplitude did not differ between H and NH stimuli during ES, suggesting equal allocation of processing resources to both stimuli. These results suggest that, similarly to reappraisal, ES modifies the way the brain processes positive emotional stimuli.
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Laughter—that spasmodic, rhythmic, vocalized, expiratory behavior termed nature’s epileptoid catharsis (Grumet, 1989)—has been the topic of much speculation among philosophers, psychologists, and ethologists. Although chimpanzees and macaques display analogous behavior in response to tickling, laughter in humans is more varied in its form and context (see Ruch & Ekman, in press, for a review). Like speech, with which it is integrated, human laughter involves cognitive, affective, and motor systems at several levels in the brain (see Brownell & Stringfellow, in press) and both behaviors share the same organs for their expression. Yet, while we have considerable knowledge about speech, the terrain of laughter remains largely unexplored. This neglect is all the more curious given a long-standing interest in the functional significance of laughter. In light of its facilitative role in such diverse domains as play, attachment, social cohesion, attraction, and response to stress or adversity, domains that are clearly fitness-relevant, laughter has even been accorded evolutionary significance (e.g., Ramachandran, 1998; Vaid, 1999).Yet surprisingly little is currently known about the varieties of laughter, laughter’s relation to speech, and its underlying neural circuitry.
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To address the impact of differences in language lateralization on joke comprehension, event-related brain potentials (ERPs) were recorded as 16 left- and 16 right-handed adults read one-line jokes and non-funny control stimuli ("A replacement player hit a home run with my girl/ball,"). In right-handers, jokes elicited a late positivity 500-900 ms post-stimulus onset that was largest over right hemisphere (RH) centro-parietal electrode sites, and a slow sustained negativity over anterior left lateral sites. In left-handers, jokes elicited a late positivity 500-900 ms post-onset that was larger and more broadly distributed than in the right-handers' ERPs. In right-handed women, the late positivity was larger over RH electrode sites. In left-handed women, the late positivity was bilaterally symmetric. The highly asymmetric slow sustained negativity over left anterior electrode sites was absent from left-handers' ERPs to jokes. Differences may reflect more efficient inter-hemispheric communication in the left-handers, as they are reputed to have relatively larger corpus callosal areas than right-handers. Results support the portrait of more bilateral language representation among left-handers, and suggest language lateralization affects high-level language comprehension tasks such as joke comprehension.
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Humour is a valid subject for research in artificial intelligence, as it is one of the more complex of human behaviours. Some have also argued that an understanding of humour could lead to more congenial human-computer interfaces, although this is more contentious. Although philosophers and others have discussed humour for centuries, it is only very recently that computational work has begun in this field, so the state of the art is still rather basic. There is no accepted theory of any form of humour, and even the methodology of exploring humour computationally has yet to be clarified. Nevertheless the area is a broad and exciting one.
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Humour is a valid subject for research in artificial intelligence, as it is one of the more complex of human behaviours. Although philosophers and others have discussed humour for centuries, it is only very recently that computational work has begun in this field, so the state of the art is still rather basic. Much of the research has concentrated on humour expressed verbally, and there has been some emphasis on models based on "incongruity". Actual implementations have involved puns of very limited forms. It is not clear that computerised jokes could enhance user interfaces in the near future, but there is a role for computer modelling in testing symbolic accounts of the structure of humorous texts. A major problem is the need for a humour-processing program to have knowledge of the world, and reasoning abilities.
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A total of 68 subjects participated in two experiments that tested the effect of exposure to comedy upon amount of discordant right-left occipital EEG alpha. Data from both showed less discordant alpha in the laughers and more in the nonlaughers at the end of exposure to a filmed comedy, as contrasted by no such group difference before treatment. Experiment 2 clarified that the production of discordant alpha in the right hemisphere was significant to this group difference, that this effect was specific to comedy treatment (nondiscriminative effects of exposure to a neutral film), and that a reversed group difference in amount of discordant right hemisphere alpha occurred after instructed hypoventilation (nondiscriminative effect of hyperventilation; counterbalanced order of all four treatments). The results were discussed in relation to (a) recent findings on right-left hemisphere characteristics of depressed individuals, (b) the significance of motivational states, (c) a link between cerebral blood flow and EEG indicators of activation, (d) ventilatory effects upon cortical activation, (e) personality differences inherent in tolerance for CO2-blood concentration, and (f) recent findings on corticothalamic connections.
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The ability to laugh, like other favored behavioral traits, may have evolved over many generations in response to environmental stresses favoring reproduction among successfully adapted people. This speculative overview depicts laughter as a symbolically-triggered release mechanism that unleashes instinctive drive energies associated with survival, in the process lowering anxiety. The use of humor to trigger the laugh reflex has become a cultural activity in which unacceptable impulses are expressed in an acceptable manner. As this occurs, there is an emancipatory release of repressed energies and assorted conflicts are "resolved". An attempt is made to examine the neurological events of laughter; here, there is a suspension of cortical-diencephalic inhibitory control, and tensions are discharged from lower centers, the presumed custodians for some of the encoded programs of instinct and emotion.
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The human expressive behavior termed laughter is triggered by pleasurable psychoemotional stimuli (Moody, 1978) and is possessed of a certain healing potential. According to split-brain studies (Sperry, 1966), psychoemotional stimuli are bound up with emotional activity in the right side of the brain. The idea thus suggests itself to study laughter generated by different sources with regard to the attendant electric brain activity between the right and left hemispheres. The present study was undertaken first with subjects in a state of normal consciousness and subsequently-given the possibility of increased affect stimulation in connection with laughter-under hypnosis. Having familiarized ourselves in our earlier work on brain dominances with the brain mapping EEG and having convinced ourselves of its greater efficiency in comparison with conventional EEG (Bick, 1985), we have had recourse to this method in the present study on approaches to the neurophysiological processes in the brain connected with laughter.