Behavioral Theories Of Humor

AND LAUGHTER. Within the context of humor and laughter theory analyses, the phenomenon of play may be considered as a behavior consisting of the following elements: an emotional aspect of pleasure; a demonstration more often in the immature, than in the adult, individual; a lack of immediate biological effect concerning the continued existence of the individual or the species; embodiment of species-specific features and forms; a relationship of the duration, amount, and diversity of play to the position of the species on the phylogenetic scale; a demonstration of freedom from conflicts; and a behavior that is relatively unorganized, spontaneous, and appears to be an end in itself. Behavioral theories of humor and laughter, also, may contain instinctive, exploratory, aesthetic, and learned actions without subsuming their basic functions. Contemporary approaches that employ the behavioral paradigm to humor analysis may be found in studies that examine the "drive-reduction/stimulus-response learning" aspects, and the arousal-change or experimental arousal aspects of humor responses. For example, concerning the latter, it has been suggested that humor springs from an "arousal jag" that stems from an experience of threat, discomfort, uncertainty, unfamiliarity, or surprise that is followed by some event that signifies safety, readjustment, release, or clarification; in this sense, the humor experience may be more or a behavioral or neurophysiological event than a psychological state. Regarding the drive-reduction model and humor, the basic experimental premise is that the humor response takes on the function of a "secondary reinforcer" because humor reduces the person's sexual and/or aggressive drives. The tenets of classical behavioral theory are indicated, also, in the famous "nature versus nurture" theoretical controversy that permeates the history of psychology. In the present context, at issue is whether humor-related behaviors are learned ("nurture") or are innate ("nature"). Many psychologists assume that laughter and humor are maturational processes demonstrating individual differences in expressive frequency and time of onset. However, some psychologists label laughter as an "instinct," an "orienting response," an "unconditioned mechanism," or a "reflex," while others accept the inborn nature of the laughter response, but maintain that what is laughed at is extended or elaborated via learning, repetitive behavior, habit, and experience. See also DARWIN-HECKER HYPOTHESIS OF LAUGHTER/HUMOR; FREUD'S THEORY OF WIT/HUMOR; HUMOR, THEORIES OF; INSTINCT THEORY OF LAUGHTER AND HUMOR; NATURE VERSUS NURTURE THEORIES; SULLY'S THEORY OF LAUGHTER/HUMOR. REFERENCE

Roeckelein, J. E. (2002). The psychology of humor. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

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