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    Key points:

  • Immanuel believes that laughter is caused by the sudden        transformation of a tense expectation into nothing

  • Arthur Schopenhauer further develops idea into Incongruity Theory

  • Laughter arises from mismatch between the physical perception        and abstract representation of an object

  • Corbis.com

    The incongruity theory suggests that humour arises when things that do not normally go together replace logic and familiarity. For example, a joke becomes funny when we predict an outcome and another happens. When we receive jokes from others, our minds and bodies are already anticipating what is going to happen and how it is going to end.

    That anticipation takes the form of logical thought which is mentioned above and then intertwined with emotion and is influenced by our past experiences and our thought processes. When the joke goes in an unexpected direction, our thoughts and emotions suddenly have to change and adapt.

    Therefore now we are experiencing a new set of emotions and backing up a different line of thought. In other words, we experience two sets of incompatible thoughts and emotions simultaneously. We experience this incongruity between the different parts of the joke as humorous and this shall explain the theory.

    To further understand this theory, the following joke has been included to let you experience the humour of the incongruity theory:

    There was this little boy who never spoke a word in his entire life. One day, while having dinner, he was sitting with his family at the dining table and out of the sudden he said, "The steak stinks." Upon hearing what their son had just said, his parents almost fell over and cried out, "How come you never said anything before?" Their son replied, "So far the food I have tasted has been pretty good."

    In addition, you may test the incongruity theory on yourself through the following picture:


    The incongruity theory comes into play in the above humour you have just experienced. It represents the theory because when you read the excerpt we are actually anticipating how itís going to end in a logical form. This thought remains in our mind together with our emotions that is influenced by our past experiences for almost the whole excerpt until the last few lines where the conversation between the parent and the son started.

    This is the part where our minds started experiencing a change as the joke goes into an unexpected direction because we knew that the boy canít speak but in the last line we realise that we only open his mouth to speak because the food didnít taste good, in other words he can speak after all. This is where the two sets of incompatible thoughts and emotions come in.