Maiers Theory Of Humor

American psychologist Norman Raymond Frederick Maier (1900-1977) proposed a Gestalt theory of humor whereby the sudden change in interpretation that occurs when a joke is understood implies that the meaning of particular elements changes because the meaning of an element depends on the nature of the "configuration" in which it operates. According to Maier's theory of humor, humor implies objectivity in that the attitude with which one approaches the content of a joke is one in which emotions and sympathies are "unengaged." The two aspects of jokes/humor (objectivity and sudden change in configuration) are characteristic equally of productive thinking, so the essence of the ridiculous, according to Maier, must be found elsewhere. For instance, it may be found in the isolation of a humorous situation in which humorous configurations are not to be taken seriously and not to be judged by tests used in non-humorous situations. Thus, the appreciation of a joke may be viewed as analogous to the sudden perceptual or cognitive shifts that occur with the relevant figure-ground relationships or configurations in the stimulus materials. See also FIGURE-GROUND RELATIONSHIPS, PRINCIPLE OF; GESTALT THEORY/LAWS; HUMOR, THEORIES OF; MORREALL'S THEORY OF HUMOR/ LAUGHTER.

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