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Humor as Violation and Deprecation: A Cognitive Anthropological Account

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Over the past few centuries, scholars have expressed a number of models of humor which are divergent, but potentially complementary. Specifically, the Incongruity Hypothesis posits that humor is our confrontation with a stimulus that is surprising or inconsistent with the way we normally view the world. The Hermetic Hypothesis maintains that the incongruity of humorous statements or events exploits shared cultural (i.e., schematic) knowledge. The Deprecation Hypothesis suggests that humor involves lowering the status of a target individual, group, or object. This paper tests a number of predictions derived from these approaches using statements that isolate the types of violations in both form (i.e., schematic or ontological template violations) and content (i.e., deprecating or non-deprecating). Using cognitive anthropological approaches to the mind, the present results suggest that the most effective forms of humor are deprecating, schematic violations.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Anthropology, University of Connecticut 354 Mansfield Road, Storrs, CT 06269-2176 USA


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