the Effect of Joke-Origin-Induced Expectancy on Cognitive Humor

This source preferred by Andrew Johnson

Authors: Johnson, A.J. and Mistry, K.

Journal: Humor: International Journal of Humor Research

Volume: 26

Issue: 2

Pages: 321-341

DOI: 10.1515/humor-2013-0011

Four experiments explored the effect of humor expectancy on the cognitive evaluation of jokes. Participants read jokes purportedly delivered by celebrity comedians or celebrity non-comedians. Participants reported jokes in the comedian condition to be significantly more amusing (Experiment 1). Furthermore, this effect was repeated in a within-participants replication where comedian celebrities and comedian non-celebrities were matched on positive evaluations (Experiment 2). This indicates that the findings cannot be explained via differential positive attitudes towards the celebrities in each condition. In Experiment 3, different types of jokes (incongruency/nonsensical) and humor levels (high/low) were compared. The expectancy effect was found to be more pronounced for nonsensical jokes. This was argued to be due to nonsensical jokes being more uniquely associated with comedians, whereas the ubiquity of incongruency jokes dilutes any effect of expectancy. However, Experiment 4 demonstrated that the expectancy effect is contingent on the name of the comedian being observed. In summary, it is argued that prior exposure to the named comedian primes an expectancy of forthcoming humor; this expectancy influences humor ratings. These findings are consistent with Wimer and Beins (2008) who showed that priming humor expectations through joke ratings can influence cognitive humor. The current study may explain why new comics need to ‘win over the audience’ whereas established comedians can rely upon the expectation of humor derived from past exposures.

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Authors: Johnson, A.J. and Mistry, K.

Journal: Humor

Volume: 26

Issue: 2

Pages: 321-341

eISSN: 1613-3722

ISSN: 0933-1719

DOI: 10.1515/humor-2013-0011

Four experiments explored the effect of humor expectancy on the cognitive evaluation of jokes. Participants read jokes purportedly delivered by celebrity comedians or celebrity non-comedians. Participants reported jokes in the comedian condition to be significantly more amusing (Experiment 1). Furthermore, this effect was repeated in a within-participants replication where celebrity comedians and celebrity non-comedians were matched on positive evaluations (Experiment 2). This indicates that the findings cannot be explained via differential positive attitudes towards the celebrities in each condition. In Experiment 3, different types of jokes (incongruency/nonsensical) and humor levels (high/low) were compared. The expectancy effect was found to be more pronounced for nonsensical jokes. This was argued to be due to nonsensical jokes being more uniquely associated with comedians, whereas the ubiquity of incongruency jokes dilutes any effect of expectancy. However, Experiment 4 demonstrated that the expectancy effect is contingent on the name of the comedian being observed. In summary, it is argued that prior exposure to the named comedian primes an expectancy of forthcoming humor; this expectancy influences humor ratings. These findings are consistent with Wimer and Beins (2008), who showed that priming humor expectations through joke ratings can influence cognitive humor. The current study may explain why new comics need to “win over the audience” whereas established comedians can rely upon the expectation of humor derived from past exposures. © 2013, [2013] by Walter de Gruyter Berlin Boston. All rights reserved.

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