A prominent humour theory suggests that most jokes will violate a subjective moral principle. This paper explores the ramifications of Thomas Veatch’s social violations theory of humour, and hypothesizes that jokes tend to produce four distinct humour emotions, in a sequential manner. The final emotional response to a humorous stimulus involves an aesthetic judgement about the inference of the joke. Humour could therefore be a cognitive-emotional mechanism used to appraise social norms while laughter serves to signal appreciation for the social inferences associated with the joke. It is further proposed that the cognitive-emotional structure of humour implies an evolutionarily adaptive function.
Alexander, R.D. (1986). ‘Ostracism and indirect reciprocity: The reproductive significance of humor’. Ethology and Sociobiology 7 (3-4), pp. 253-270.
Barrett, L., Dunbar, R. and Lycett, J. (2002). Human Evolutionary Psychology. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Berlyne, D.E. (1972). ‘Humor and its kin’, in Goldstein, J.H. & McGhee, P.H. (eds.), The Psychology of Humor: Theoretical Perspectives and Empirical Issues. New York: Academic Press, pp. 43-60.
Butovskaya, M.L. & Kozintsev, A.G. (1996). ‘A neglected form of quasi-aggression in apes: Possible relevance for the origins of humor’. Current Anthropology 37 (4), pp. 716-717.
Cummins, D.D. (1998). ‘Social norms and other minds: The evolutionary roots of higher cognition’, in Cummins, D.D. & Allen, C.A. (eds.), The Evolution of Mind, New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 30-50.
Cummins, D.D. (1999). ‘Cheater detection is modified by social rank: The impact of dominance on the evolution of cognitive functions’. Evolution and Human Behavior 20 (4), pp. 229-248.
Damasio, A. & Carvalho, G.B. (2013). ‘The nature of feelings: Evolutionary and neurobiological origins’. Nature Reviews. Neuroscience 14, pp. 143-152.
De Waal, F. (1996). Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Denson, T.F., Pederson, W.C., Ronquillo, J. & Nandy A.S. (2008). ‘The angry brain: neural correlates of anger, angry rumination, and aggressive personality’. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 21 (4), pp. 734-744.
Duval, E.R., Javanbakht, A. & Liberzon, I. (2015). ‘Neural circuits in anxiety and stress disorders: a focused review’. Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management 11, pp. 115-126.
Freud, S. (1905/1963). Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious. New York: W.W. Norton.
Frijda, N.H. (1988). ‘The laws of emotion’. American Psychologist 43 (5), pp. 349-358.
Fry, W. (1994). ‘The biology of humor’. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research 7 (2), pp. 111-126.
Gamble, J. (2001). ‘Humor in apes’. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research 14 (2), pp. 163-179.
Gervais, M. & Wilson, D.S. (2005). ‘The evolution and functions of laughter and humor: A synthetic approach’. The Quarterly Review of Biology 80 (4), pp. 395-430.
Greengross, G. & Miller, G. (2011). ‘Humor ability reveals intelligence, predicts mating success, and is higher in males’. Intelligence 39 (4), pp. 188-192.
Jung, W.E. (2003). ‘The inner eye theory of laughter: Mindreader signals cooperator value’. Evolutionary Psychology 1, pp. 214-253.
Leder, H., Belke, B., Oeberst, A. & Augustin, D. (2004). ‘A model of aesthetic appreciation and aesthetic judgments’. British Journal of Psychology 95 (4), pp. 489-508.
McGraw, P.A. & Warren, C. (2010). ‘Benign violations: Making immoral behavior funny’. Psychological Science 21 (8), pp. 1141-1149.
Polimeni, J. & Reiss, J.P. (2006). ‘The first joke: Exploring the evolutionary origins of humor’. Evolutionary Psychology 4, pp. 347-366.
Preuschoft, S., & van Hooff, J. A. R. A. M. (1997). ‘The social function of “smile” and “laughter”: Variations across primate species and societies’, in U. Segerståle & P. Molnar (eds.), Nonverbal Communication: Where Nature Meets Culture. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum., pp. 171–190.
Ramachandran, V.S. (1998). ‘The neurology and evolution of humor, laughter, and smiling: The false alarm theory’. Medical Hypotheses 51 (4), pp. 351-354.
Raskin, V. & Triezenberg K.E. (2003). ‘Levels of sophistication in humor intelligence agents’, in A. Nijholt (ed.), Proceedings of the Humor Interface Workshop at CHI-2003: Computer Humor Interface Conference. Fort Lauderdale, FL, April 6, 2003, Einschede.
Rothbart, M.K. & Pien, D. (1977). ‘Elephants and marshmallows: A theoretical synthesis of incongruity–resolution and arousal theories of humour’, in A.J. Chapman and H.C. Foot (eds.), It’ s a Funny Thing, Humour. Oxford: Pergamon Press Ltd, pp. 37-40.
Tooby, J. & Cosmides, L. (2001). ‘Does beauty build adapted minds? Toward an evolutionary theory of aesthetics, fiction and the arts’. SubStance 94/95, 30 (1-2), pp. 6-27.
Veatch, T.C. (1998). ‘A theory of humor’. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research 11 (2), pp. 161-215.
Weisfeld, G. 1983. ‘The adaptive value of humor and laughter’. Ethology and Sociobiology 14 (2). 141-169.
Weisfeld, G. & Dillon, L. (2012). ‘Applying the dominance hierarchy model to pride and shame, and related to behaviors’. Journal of Evolutionary Psychology 10 (1), pp.15-41.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Copyright (c) 2016 The European Journal of Humour Research