Humour (in Commonwealth English), or humor (in American English) is the tendency of particular cognitive experiences to provoke laughter and provide amusement. The term derives from the humoral medicine of the ancient Greeks, which taught that the balance of fluids in the human body, known as humours (Latin: humor, "body fluid"), controlled human health and emotion.
People of all ages and cultures respond to humour. Most people are able to experience humour—be amused, smile or laugh at something funny—and thus are considered to have a sense of humour. The hypothetical person lacking a sense of humour would likely find the behaviour induced by humour to be inexplicable, strange, or even irrational. Though ultimately decided by personal taste, the extent to which a person finds something humorous depends on a host of variables, including geographical location, culture, maturity, level of education, intelligence and context. For example, young children may favour slapstick such as Punch and Judy puppet shows or cartoons such as Tom and Jerry, whose physical nature makes it accessible to them. By contrast, sophisticated forms of humour such as satire require an understanding of its social meaning and context, and thus tend to appeal to the mature audience.
- 1 Theories
- 2 Views
- 3 In the workplace
- 4 Sociological factors
- 5 Psychological well-being
- 6 Physiological effects
- 7 Formula
- 8 Culture
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 Further reading
- 12 External links
Many theories exist about what humour is and what social function it serves. The prevailing types of theories attempting to account for the existence of humour include psychological theories, the vast majority of which consider humour-induced behaviour to be very healthy; spiritual theories, which may, for instance, consider humour to be a "gift from God"; and theories which consider humour to be an unexplainable mystery, very much like a mystical experience.
The benign-violation theory, endorsed by Peter McGraw, attempts to explain humour's existence. The theory says 'humour only occurs when something seems wrong, unsettling, or threatening, but simultaneously seems okay, acceptable or safe’ Humor can be used as a method to easily engage in social interaction by taking away that awkward, uncomfortable, or uneasy feeling of social interactions.
Others believe that 'the appropriate use of humor can facilitate social interactions'.
Some claim that humour cannot or should not be explained. Author E.B. White once said, "Humor can be dissected as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind." Counter to this argument, protests against "offensive" cartoons invite the dissection of humor or its lack by aggrieved individuals and communities. This process of dissecting humor does not necessarily banish a sense of humor but begs attention toward its politics and assumed universality (Khanduri 2014).
Arthur Schopenhauer lamented the misuse of humour (a German loanword from English) to mean any type of comedy. However, both humour and comic are often used when theorising about the subject. The connotations of humour as opposed to comic are said to be that of response versus stimulus. Additionally, humour was thought to include a combination of ridiculousness and wit in an individual; the paradigmatic case being Shakespeare's Sir John Falstaff. The French were slow to adopt the term humour; in French, humeur and humour are still two different words, the former referring to a person's mood or to the archaic concept of the four humours.
In the workplace
The significant role that laughter and fun play in organizational life has been seen as a sociological phenomenon and has increasingly been recognized as also creating a sense of involvement among workers. Sharing humour at work not only offers a relief from boredom, but can also build relationships, improve camaraderie between colleagues and create positive affect. Humour in the workplace may also relieve tension and can be used as a coping strategy. In fact, one of the most agreed upon key impacts that workplace humour has on people’s well being, is the use of humour as a coping strategy to aid in dealing with daily stresses, adversity or other difficult situations. Sharing a laugh with a few colleagues may improve moods, which is pleasurable, and people perceive this as positively affecting their ability to cope. Fun and enjoyment are critical in people's lives and the ability for colleagues to be able to laugh during work, through banter or other, promotes harmony and a sense of cohesiveness.
Humour may also be used to offset negative feelings about a workplace task or to mitigate the use of profanity, or other coping strategies, that may not be otherwise tolerated. Not only can humour in the workplace assist with defusing negative emotions, but it may also be used as an outlet to discuss personal painful events, in a lighter context, thus ultimately reducing anxiety and allowing more happy, positive emotions to surface. Additionally, humour may be used as a tool to mitigate the authoritative tone by managers when giving directives to subordinates. Managers may use self-deprecating humour as a way to be perceived as more human and "real" by their employees. Furthermore, ethnography studies, carried out in a variety of workplace settings, confirmed the importance of a fun space in the workplace. The attachment to the notion of fun by contemporary companies has resulted in workplace management coming to recognize the potentially positive effects of "workplay" and realize that it does not necessarily undermine workers’ performance.
Laughter and play can unleash creativity, thus raising morale, so in the interest of encouraging employee consent to the rigours of the labour process, management often ignore, tolerate and even actively encourage playful practices, with the purpose of furthering organizational goals. Essentially, fun in the workplace is no longer being seen as frivolous. The most current approach of managed fun and laughter in the workplace originated in North America, where it has taken off to such a degree, that it has humour consultants flourishing, as some states have introduced an official "fun at work" day. The results have carried claims of well-being benefits to workers, improved customer experiences and an increase in productivity that organizations can enjoy, as a result. Others examined results of this movement while focusing around the science of happiness – concerned with mental health, motivation, community building and national well-being – and drew attention to the ability to achieve "flow" through playfulness and stimulate "outside the box" thinking. Parallel to this movement is the "positive" scholarship that has emerged in psychology which seeks to empirically theorize the optimization of human potential. This happiness movement suggests that investing in fun at the workplace, by allowing for laughter and play, will not only create enjoyment and a greater sense of well-being, but it will also enhance energy, performance and commitment in workers.
As with any art form, the acceptance of a particular style or incidence of humour depends on sociological factors and varies from person to person. Throughout history, comedy has been used as a form of entertainment all over the world, whether in the courts of the Western kings or the villages of the Far East. Both a social etiquette and a certain intelligence can be displayed through forms of wit and sarcasm. Eighteenth-century German author Georg Lichtenberg said that "the more you know humour, the more you become demanding in fineness."
Western humour theory begins with Plato, who attributed to Socrates (as a semi-historical dialogue character) in the Philebus (p. 49b) the view that the essence of the ridiculous is an ignorance in the weak, who are thus unable to retaliate when ridiculed. Later, in Greek philosophy, Aristotle, in the Poetics (1449a, pp. 34–35), suggested that an ugliness that does not disgust is fundamental to humour.
In ancient Sanskrit drama, Bharata Muni's Natya Shastra defined humour (hāsyam) as one of the nine nava rasas, or principle rasas (emotional responses), which can be inspired in the audience by bhavas, the imitations of emotions that the actors perform. Each rasa was associated with a specific bhavas portrayed on stage. In the case of humour, it was associated with mirth (hasya).
In Arabic culture
The terms comedy and satire became synonymous after Aristotle's Poetics was translated into Arabic in the medieval Islamic world, where it was elaborated upon by Arabic writers and Islamic philosophers such as Abu Bischr, his pupil Al-Farabi, Persian Avicenna, and Averroes. Due to cultural differences, they disassociated comedy from Greek dramatic representation, and instead identified it with Arabic poetic themes and forms, such as hija (satirical poetry). They viewed comedy as simply the "art of reprehension" and made no reference to light and cheerful events or troublesome beginnings and happy endings associated with classical Greek comedy. After the Latin translations of the 12th century, the term comedy thus gained a new semantic meaning in Medieval literature.
Mento star Lord Flea, stated in an 1957 interview that he thought that: "West Indians have the best sense of humour in the world. Even in the most solemn song, like Las Kean Fine ["Lost and Can Not Be Found"], which tells of a boiler explosion on a sugar plantation that killed several of the workers, their natural wit and humor shine though."
Confucianist Chinese culture has traditionally looked down upon humour, making Chinese humour "modest and unnoticeable". Western influences sparked the development of new kinds of humour in the 1970s, particularly a variant of black humour.
Shen Zhou's Commentary on Growing a Beard was written in the manner of Chinese classics, even citing historical examples. Yet, contextually, it was a lighthearted humorous work amongst close friends and literati—Zhao Mingyu, Zhou Zongdao, Yao Cundao, and Shen Zhou—about growing beards.
Social transformation model
The social transformation model of humour predicts that specific characteristics, such as physical attractiveness, interact with humour. This model involves linkages between the humorist, an audience, and the subject matter of the humour. The two transformations associated with this particular model involves the subject matter of the humour, and the change in the audiences perception of the humorous person, therefore establishing a relationship between the humorous speaker and the audience. The social transformation model views humour as adaptive because it communicates the present desire to be humorous as well as future intentions of being humorous. This model is used with deliberate self-deprecating humour where one is communicating with desires to be accepted into someone else’s specific social group. Although self-deprecating humour communicates weakness and fallibility in the bid to gain another's affection, it can be concluded from the model that this type of humour can increase romantic attraction towards the humorist when other variables are also favourable.
90% of men and 81% of women, all college students, report having a sense of humour is a crucial characteristic looked for in a romantic partner. Humour and honesty were ranked as the two most important attributes in a significant other. It has since been recorded humour becomes more evident and significantly more important as the level of commitment in a romantic relationship increases. Recent research suggests expressions of humour in relation to physical attractiveness are two major factors in the desire for future interaction. Women regard physical attractiveness less highly compared to men when it came to dating, a serious relationship, and sexual intercourse. However, women rate humorous men more desirable than nonhumorous individuals for a serious relationship or marriage, but only when these men were physically attractive.
Furthermore, humorous people are perceived by others to be more cheerful but less intellectual than nonhumorous people. Self-deprecating humour has been found to increase the desirability of physically attractive others for committed relationships. The results of a study conducted by McMaster University suggest humour can positively affect one’s desirability for a specific relationship partner, but this effect is only most likely to occur when men use humour and are evaluated by women. No evidence was found to suggest men prefer women with a sense of humor as partners, nor women preferring other women with a sense of humor as potential partners. When women were given the forced-choice design in the study, they chose funny men as potential relationship partners even though they rated them as being less honest and intelligent. Post-Hoc analysis showed no relationship between humour quality and favorable judgments.
It is generally known that humor contributes to a healthier wellbeing (both physical and psychological). Previous research on humor and psychological well-being show that humor is in fact a major factor in achieving, and sustaining, a healthier more satisfying psychological wellbeing. This hypothesis is known as general facilitative hypothesis for humor. That is, positive humor leads to positive health. Contemporary research, however, have failed to support the previous assertion that humor is in fact a cause for healthier psychological wellbeing. Some of the previous researches’ limitations is that they tend to use a unidimensional approach of humor because it was always inferred that humor was deemed positive. They did not consider the types of humor, or humor styles. For example, self-defeating or aggressive humor. Research has proposed 2 types of humor that each consist of 2 styles, making 4 styles in total. The two types are adaptive, and maladaptive humor. Adaptive humor consist of facilitative and self-enhancing humor, and maladaptive is self-defeating and aggressive humor. Each of these styles have impact on psychological, and the overall individuals’ wellbeing.
(1) Affiliative style humor. Individuals with this dimension of humor tend to use jokes as a mean of affiliating relationships, amuse others, and reduce tensions.
(2) Self-enhancing style humor. People that fall under this dimension of humor tend to take a humorous perspective of life. Individuals with self-enhancing humor tend to use it as a mechanism to cope with stress.
(3) Aggressive humor. Racist jokes, sarcasm and disparagement of individuals for the purpose of amusement. This type of humor is used by people who do not consider the consequences of their jokes, and mainly focus on the entertainment of the listeners.
(4) Self-defeating Humor. People with this style of humor tend to amuse others by using self-disparaging jokes, and also tend to laugh along with others when being taunted. It is hypothesized that people use this style of humor as a mean of social acceptance. It is also mentioned that these people may have an implicit feeling of negativity. So they use this humor as a mean of hiding that inner negative feeling.
In the study on humor and psychological well-being, research has concluded that high levels of Adaptive type humor (affiliative and self-enhancing) is associated with better self-esteem, positive affect, greater self-competency, as well as anxiety control and social interactions. All of which are constituents of psychological wellbeing. In contrast, maladaptive type humor (aggressive and self-defeating) is associated with poorer overall psychological wellbeing, emphasis on higher levels of anxiety and depression. Therefore, humor may have detrimental effects on psychological wellbeing, only if that humor is of negative characteristics.
Humour is often used to make light of difficult or stressful situations and to brighten up a social atmosphere in general. It is regarded by many as an enjoyable and positive experience, so it would be reasonable to assume that it humour might have some positive physiological effects on the body.
A study designed to test the positive physiological effects of humour, the relationship between being exposed to humour and pain tolerance in particular, was conducted in 1994 by Karen Zwyer, Barbara Velker, and Willibald Ruch. To test the effects of humour on pain tolerance the test subjects were first exposed to a short humorous video clip and then exposed to the Cold Press Test. To identify the aspects of humour which might contribute to an increase in pain tolerance the study separated its fifty six female participants into three groups, cheerfulness, exhilaration and humour production. The subject were further separated into two groups, high Trait-Cheerfulness and high Trait-Seriousness according to the State-Trait-Cheerfulness-Inventory. The instructions for the three groups were as follows: the cheerfulness group were told to get excited about the movie without laughing or smiling, the exhilaration group was told to laugh and smile excessively, exaggerating their natural reactions, the humour production group was told to make humorous comments about the video clip as they watched. To ensure that the participants actually found the movie humorous and that it produced the desired effects the participants took a survey on the topic which resulted in a mean score of 3.64 out of 5. The results of the Cold Press Test showed that the participants in all three groups experienced a higher pain threshold, a higher pain tolerance and a lower pain tolerance than previous to the film. The results did not show a significant difference between the three groups.
There are also potential relationships between humour and having a healthy . SIgA is a type of antibody that protects the body from infections. In a method similar to the previous experiment described the participants were shown a short humorous video clip and then tested for the effects. The participants showed a significant increase in SIgA levels.
There have been claims that laughter can be a supplement for cardiovascular exercise and might increase muscle tone. However an early study by Paskind J. showed that laughter can lead to a decrease in skeletal muscle tone because the short intense muscle contractions caused by laughter are followed by longer periods of muscle relaxation. The cardiovascular benefits of laughter also seem to be just a figment of imagination as a study that was designed to test oxygen saturation levels produced by laughter, showed that even though laughter creates sporadic episodes of deep breathing, oxygen saturation levels are not affected.
As humour is often used to ease tension, it might make sense that the same would be true for anxiety. A study by Yovetich N, Dale A, Hudak M. was designed to test the effects humour might have on relieving anxiety. The study subject were told that they would be given to an electric shock after a certain period of time. One group was exposed to humorous content, while the other was not. The anxiety levels were measured through self-report measures as well as the heart rate. Subjects which rated high on sense of humour reported less anxiety in both groups, while subjects which rated lower on sense of humour reported less anxiety in the group which was exposed to the humorous material. However, there was not a significant difference in the heart rate between the subjects.
Humour can be verbal, visual, or physical. Non-verbal forms of communication–for example, music or visual art–can also be humorous.
- Being reflective of or imitative of reality
- Surprise/misdirection, contradiction/paradox, ambiguity.
Behaviour, place and size
- by behaving in an unusual way,
- by being in an unusual place,
- by being the wrong size.
Most sight gags fit into one or more of these categories.
Some theoreticians of the comic consider exaggeration to be a universal comic device. It may take different forms in different genres, but all rely on the fact that the easiest way to make things laughable is to exaggerate to the point of absurdity their salient traits.
Different cultures have different typical expectations of humour so comedy shows are not always successful when transplanted into another culture. For example, a 2004 BBC News article discusses a stereotype among British comedians that Americans and Germans do not understand irony, and therefore UK sitcoms are not appreciated by them.
- British humour
- Form-versus-content humour
- Gelotology, the study of laughing and laughter
- Humour in translation
- Humor styles
- Laughter in literature
- List of humorists
- Surreal humour
- Theories of humor
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