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What's so funny about that?: The domains-interaction approach as a model of incongruity and resolution in humor

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Abstract

The domains-interaction approach, originally developed in metaphor research, was used to model humor processing. Using “jokes” of the structure “A is the B of A's domain” (e.g., “John Candy is the hamburger of actors”), this approach allows for precise operationalizations of incongruity and resolution in terms of between-domain and within-domain semantic distance, respectively. Distances between 26 terms used in 250 of these simple jokes were derived from semantic differential ratings. As predicted, humor ratings of the jokes were positively correlated with incongruity (between-domain distance) but not with resolution (within-domain distance). Also as predicted, a significant interaction revealed that jokes with both incongruity and resolution were rated as most humorous. These findings were replicated in a second study. A third study indicated that humor perception differs from metaphor appreciation, showing main effects for both types of semantic distance, but no interaction, when the sentences were presented as metaphors instead of jokes and rated for aptness.

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The authors wish to thank Richard Harshman and Albert Katz for their helpful suggestions in conducting this research.

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Hillson, T.R., Martin, R.A. What's so funny about that?: The domains-interaction approach as a model of incongruity and resolution in humor. Motiv Emot 18, 1–29 (1994). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02252473

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