Psychological

Among psychological theories, that of Sigmund Freud, as described in Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious (1963), is one of the earliest. For Freud, jokes allow a temporary expression of socially undesirable impulses from the subconscious. Freud notes that tendentious humor makes possible "the satisfaction of an instinct (whether lustful or hostile) in the face of an obstacle that stands in its way.'' The association of humor with aggressive or sexual impulses has characterized subsequent accounts as well, although there is no current consensus as to whether hostility is inherent in humor.

Proponents of the so-called superiority theory (e.g., Aristotle, Plato, Hobbes, and Bergson) view laughter as reflecting a moral stance on the part of the laugher. For Bergson, laughter asserts the human values of spontaneity and freedom and therefore erupts whenever a person behaves rigidly, like an automaton: "Humor consists in perceiving something mechanical encrusted on something living.'' Hobbes described the passion of laughter as "nothing else but sudden glory arising from a sudden conception of some eminency in ourselves by comparison with the infirmity of others, or with our own formerly.'' Superiority is asserted not just by laughing at others' defects but also by showing that one can laugh at (and rise above) one's own imperfections.

In contrast to negative uses of humor, as in put-down or derisive humor, recent clinically based research has directed considerable attention to positive aspects of humor. Humor is increasingly viewed as a useful mechanism for coping with stress and regulating affect. In 1999, Galloway and Cropley proposed that laughter may reduce some existing mental health problems and a sense of humor may moderate the perceived intensity of negative life events.

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