2: Psychoanalytic and Superiority Theories
Philosophers, psychologists, linguists, and other theorists have long pondered the topic of humor and have developed numerous theories. The author lists a number of sources, in which he counts 88 distinct theories of humor. In the present chapter, the author will consider two of them - and in the next chapter he will consider three more.
General Observations About Theory
Theory in general tends to be frugal - focusing only on those aspects of a phenomenon that are of direct interest to the theorist and whatever hypotheses he may be pursuing. The reason that there are so many theories is not because the phenomenon itself is inordinately complex, but because there are an infinite array of perspectives, interests, and agendas. Most theorists claim to be seeking universal truth, but it is only within the context of their own interests.
The notion of "right or wrong" does not apply to theories - they seek only to be plausible within a given context or useful for a given purpose. A "good" theory is soundly reasoned, clearly defined, and supported by evidence.
There is also an acknowledge difference between theory and fact - in that a fact is taken as incontrovertible, while a theory is not. It is merely a working model that may lead to the discovery of facts, and when those facts are discovered a given theory may need to be amended or discarded.
But until such time as that occurs, theory represents "the best we can do" to understand a phenomenon, and serves as guidance for action in a world of imperfect and incomplete knowledge.
Theories of Humor
Back to the topic at hand: most of the theories of humor are not very good at all. The subject is not well enough understood, and evidence to support a hypothesis is highly conjectural. Theories attempt to explain the concept of humor from various perspective, often using fragments of reality and incidents that are similar, then extrapolating upon them to make general observations based on very weak and tenuous evidence. This is, however, the best that can be done, and as in all areas of exploration, there will be a long period of weak theories until they are tested and tried and found to hold true.
The psychoanalytical approach to humor predominated the literature of the mid-twentieth century, and had largely disappeared by the last quarter of that same century. It remains an interesting bauble, but is largely considered to be of little practical use - but at the same time provides a thorough, if not entirely sound, basis for developing future theories.
The theory of aggression, likewise, had its heyday and has largely faded. The notion that every human interaction was one of aggressive competition and an attempt to achieve or communicate superiority is societal settings was found to be very limited - while there are aggressive individuals, and while some individuals are at times aggressive, it does not describe normal daily behavior for the majority of individuals. But like psychoanalysis, it laud some groundwork that should be salvaged from the wreckage.
In the present day, the cognitive approach dominates all areas of psychology, and cognitive theories of humor tend to predominate. And like the movements before it, cognitive psychologists believe that what they are pursuing is universal truth that will stand the test of time. Given that previous schools of psychology have come and gone, it would be remiss to focus entirely on the cognitive approach and ignore the ones that preceded it - and to prepare in advance for a salvage that may eventually occur.
Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic approach was perhaps one of the most influential theories about humor in the first half of the twentieth century - a period when Freud was a central figure in psychology as a whole.
In general, the Psychological approach views the mind as "a seething caldron of conflicting motives and desires."
- Id - Represents a childish and immature demand for gratification, chiefly of a sexual nature, devoid of restraint or rationality, and often subconscious
- Superego - Represents a consciousness of societal demands and a need to restrain or suppress the demands of the id, which may also be unconscious and based on the emotion of fear
- Ego - The functional self that attempt to apply reason in arbitrating between desire and restraint to achieve a functional outcome
These three key components represent an ongoing struggle within the mind, which Freud often depicted in a humorous manner, and considered humor itself to be an expression of lust, hostility, or both.
Overview of the Theory
Freud maintained that laughter is the release of nervous energy, a notion he borrowed from Herbert Spencer. By this view, tension would accrue in the nervous system, and would seek some form of release - generally in a sexual or aggressive action - but restraining these impulses of the id did nothing to decrease the energy, which would escape in the form of laughter.
Freud defined three categories of laughter-related phenomena: wit, humor, and comedy, each of which represented a different means of releasing nervous energy:
In suppressing the demands of the id, the superego would represent them as being irrational or ludicrous, the realization of which would be expressed in the form of jokes or conversational humor that mocks and derides those desires. The telling of a joke replaces other behaviors that would release the primitive impulses, thus dismissing them.
It's also noted that, in the translation into humor, the superego would suppress the aggressive or sexual aspects of the energy - often by use of wordplay that disguises the underlying impulses. Where the superego does an insufficient job of this, the sexual or aggressive innuendo is unmistakable and the error or neglect of the superego is the origin of the "Freudian slip."
There is also the notion that jokes of a sexual nature are a way of experiencing vicarious pleasure of imagining oneself in the situation described in the joke. Humor may also derive from ridicule of the situation and characters portrayed in the joke, giving the listener the satisfaction of their own intelligence and self-control, which is to say, their superego.
Freud did not consider every joke to be of a sexual or aggressive nature, and conceded that there were "non-tendentious" jokes that had no sexual or aggressive component - and reckoned that these enabled the audience to mentally regress to a childlike state of innocence.
Freud's second category of laughter-related phenomena relates to restraining the negative emotions of anger, sadness, and fear and the superego's attempt to re-interpret stimuli that would give rise to those emotions. In essence, humor means choosing to see "the funny side of things" in an otherwise unpleasant situation.
This type of humor is readily witnessed in people who are in stressful or unpleasant circumstances, but can also be seen in everyday life as people make light of their personal failings and foibles. Very often, humor is a way of coping with a blunder - to laugh rather than feel ashamed of our own stupidity or carelessness.
According to Freud, humor of this kind was a kind of defense mechanisms that enable people to face difficult situations without becoming overwhelmed by unpleasant emotions - and developing a person's sense of humor figures highly into practical applications of psychoanalysis - as it functions to mitigate or suppress negative emotions that prevent us from taking necessary actions.
Whereas jokes and comedy were seen as universal, humor was regarded as "a precious gift" that is possessed by only a few - and is almost universally positive in helping to maintain a healthy balance between the id and superego.
The notion of comedy is purely physical, and deals with our reaction to clumsiness - whether it is accidental humor (a person who does something ungraceful in the course of normal life) or contrived humor (a clown or slapstick performer whose ungraceful action is purposeful and rehearsed).
Comedy is also generally non-sexual and non-aggressive, in that it deals with an action that breaks an expected pattern. We see the actions of others and predict their future action, a facility that enables people to walk down a street without jostling or bumping into one another, and this occurs quite naturally. Any sudden or unexpected motion takes our attention, and the amusement occurs on recognition that this sudden change does not constitute a threat.
However, it is conceded that comedy is not entirely devoid of aggression: it is far more comical when the person or character who does something clumsy is a figure for whom we have some contempt, as it is reckoned that there is some gratification from seeing them humbled by their own clumsiness - and perhaps a tinge of hope that their actions will lead them to injure themselves.
Freud's body of theory gave rise to a number of hypotheses that were investigated in a large number of early psychological studies.
Derivative theories (listed in Kline 1977) propose hypotheses such as:
- Individuals who find aggressive or sexual jokes funny are those in whom aggressive and sexual desires are most repressed.
- Psychopaths should not find jokes amusing because their own suppression mechanisms prevent them from identifying with the subjects
- Witty people have powerful aggressive and sexual drives and use humor in their struggle to repress them
- People who are able to understand subtle and complex humor are also highly repressed
The anxiety-repression theory (Levine 1955) is largely based on Freud's theory. Maintaining that laughter is largely an reaction based on fear, or the abatement of fear, and that humor is funny because the topic of a joke is ominous or threatening, and builds anxiety that is relieved by the punchline. The greater the anxiety felt by a person, the funnier they will find a joke that deals with the topic that causes them anxiety.
(EN: The author has not yet explored the topic of non-humorous laughter that occurs in stressful situations, exactly as described above: tension and its release elicit snickering, chuckles, or outright laughter. Whereas Levine considers this to be the source of humor, it was later theorized that humor had nothing to do with these instances of laughter.)
A "Mirth Response Test" (Redlich 1951) was contrived to discover the topics that caused tension between the id and superego, which was based on the notion that home revealed the topics about which a person was experiencing the greatest conflict between desire and its repression. In this tests, subjects are shown a series of cartoons, which identified areas in which researchers would have follow-up discussions about the ones they found to be the most or least humorous.
(EN: critics suggest that the Redlich studies were tainted - that the findings are invalidated by the fact that the researchers formed expectations in the testing phase that they merely sought to confirm in the interviewing phase. There is validity to this criticism, but I don't expect it altogether dismisses the plausibility of the hypotheses, though it does undermine the credibility of this specific study.)
The Wit and Humor Appreciation Test (O'Connell 1960) used verbal humor, a sequence of 30 jokes that were designed by a panel of clinical psychologists to correspond to humor, with, and hostile wit, and testing the degree to which subjects with known psychological conditions would find them humorous. The author notes that the findings were only partially supportive of the thesis, but it remains an interesting hypothesis.
There have been various experiments meant to test Freud's theory that humor is most appealing to those who are repressing aggression - but the experiments found the contrary to be true: the subjects who find humor that convey aggression humorous are those who are most comfortable experiencing and expressing these same impulses, whereas subjects who were most repressed did not find such jokes funny and in fact seemed uncomfortable with any expression of these emotions.
Furthermore, passive-aggressive individuals find jokes that depict of passive-aggressive behavior to be funny and are uncomfortable with jokes that portray frank displays of aggression, whereas those who express aggression frankly find jokes about open aggression funny and are not amused by jokes that depict passive-aggressive behavior. This suggests that people are most attracted to jokes that match not only their inclination to express emotion, but also the mode in which they personally express it.
Additional studies considered the same theory in terms of desire, particularly the sexual drive - and the same results were noted. Both males and females who were more comfortable with the topic of sexuality, were happier with their sex lives, had higher libido and excitement, and were generally more positive about sexuality in general enjoy jokes of a sexual nature more so than those who have a repressed libido and a negative perspective on sexuality.
As an aside, people who are more positive about sexuality responded more readily to humor on a broader range of topics, not merely jokes of a sexual nature. (EN: The author does not presently connect the dots between this observation and the notion that humor has been found to be a desirable quality, but it seems likely that there may be some correspondence - which suggests that people who are comfortable with sexuality are attracted to others with the same perspective, as suggested by their sense of humor. People who are uncomfortable with sexuality are attracted to others who share their discomfort, and this abhor a sense of humor in other people.)
Critics of these studies suggest that the connection is not so straightforward, as humor is a social phenomenon - and as such a person's reaction to humor may be feigned. Someone who is sexually repressed is generally uncomfortable not only with sexuality, but the degree to which they feel that their discomfort is normal when compared to other people. As such, a repressed person may claim to find jokes of a sexual nature funny, and may even have a practiced reaction to suggest that they are at ease, so as to conceal the fact that the topic makes them uncomfortable.
The same can be said of individuals who are less repressed, but fear that others will perceive them as being abnormal for their level of comfort with sexual and aggressive topics. In practical terms, men will laugh harder and longer at jokes of a sexual nature in the company of other men than they will in the company of women (and vice-versa) because they expect that members of the opposite sex will disapprove of their vulgarity if they reacted naturally.
Another study (Singer 1967) suggests that context and experience also influence the degree to which individuals will react to aggressive humor. Those members of a test group who were shown images depicting violence and brutality were less inclined to find aggressive jokes funny and more inclined to be uncomfortable with the topic than a control group who were not shown the same images prior to testing their reaction to aggressive humor.
(EN: This also supports the notion that humor is perceived as a departure from reality - particularly for humor that is based in the absurd, things are funny because they are implausible, and the sense that the joke depicts a realistic scenario diminishes its nonsensical nature. Hence those who perceive aggression as realistic rather than absurd are less amused by jokes that depict aggression.)
In general, aggression is an uncomfortable topic for most individuals, and in ranking jokes or cartoons, those that depict aggression usually end up being ranked as less funny than those whose humor does not involve aggression.
The notion that humor is a mechanism by which repressed or pent-up emotions can be vented is not entirely disproven, and there are studies that suggest humor can function as a defensive mechanism, to belittle the things that make people uncomfortable.
(EN: I'm unconvinced that this deals with repression/expression as much as experience: policemen have many jokes about aggressive behavior and sex-industry workers have many jokes about sexual behavior - but in the same way that fishermen have a lot of jokes about fishing. There can be some argument that routine exposure to something alters a person's perspective, but it is also a matter of mere experience - we have more stories, funny or otherwise, about the things we encounter more often in our daily lives, and relate better to stories that speak to our actual experience. A person who's never fished will not understand a joke about fishing and will not find it amusing.)
Additional studies (Strickland 1959) reverse the scenario, to test whether exposure to humor impacts mood and inhibitions. It's found that people are more aggressive in general after hearing jokes of an aggressive nature, and more sensitized to sexuality (and even experience a degree of arousal) after hearing jokes of a sexual nature.
Another study suggests there is crossed wiring between the sexual and aggressive impulse: that people who are aggressive find jokes about both sex to be more humorous, and that people who are aroused find both jokes about violence to be more humorous.
A final study (Nevo 1983) considers the productive aspect of humor: people who are exposed to sexual and aggressive stimuli are not only more likely to find jokes or a corresponding nature more humorous, but are also more likely to use conversational humor of a corresponding nature during interviews after exposure. The effect is even more pronounced when the test subject is prompted to tell a humorous story after exposure.
Considering the studies he has seen, the author finds the evidence for the psychoanalytic theory of humor to be "limited and inconsistent" - neither enough to give strong support to Freud's ideas, nor to discredit them either.
He suggests that this approach to understanding humor was "largely abandoned by researchers since the 1980s" but this is also about the same time that the psychoanalytic theory itself was being discarded in favor of cognitive approaches to psychology in general.
Even so, the research that was done during the course of investigating the theory is of greater interest than the theory itself - and the simple fact that humor became a topic that was subjected to research at all was quite an accomplishment given the academic disinterest in the topic before that time.
It's also worth noting that some of Freud's theories remain widely accepted, primarily among those who have read Freud's theory but are uninformed about the research - and as Freud was popularized in mainstream media, this includes quite many armchair intellectuals and cracker-barrel philosophers.
One particular weakness of psychoanalytic approaches as they tend to consider man unto himself, without reference to the social context of behavior. In so doing, they miss the point of any social emotion and arguably of emotion itself - as man's emotions and especially their expression do not happen in a vacuum, but in the context of a social interaction, and for very social reasons.
Another limitation is that Freud's theories focused almost exclusively on violence and sexual impulses, and disregarded as irrelevant any other cause for human behavior - in effect, placing a filter on any context that reduces it to those two simple parameters, ignoring or distorting other sources of motivation, and sometimes imposing itself where it is not evident (to layer a sexual or violent overtone to a situation that is inherently neither).
As a result, psychoanalytic theory is unable to find a completely satisfactory account of humor - but draws attention to certain species of humor, in certain contexts, and should be considered worthwhile within the limited scope of its inquiry and interest.
As was noted when reviewing the history of humor, it was only after the seventeenth century that humor was regarded as benign and even desirable. Prior to that time, all laughter was regarded as an expression of scorn and mockery and "humor" was considered to be a method of expressing one's own superior status or disparaging the status of others.
And so it follows that a great deal of the literature on the topic of humor, even since the turning point, regards humor as a method of social posturing, expressing one's own superiority to others either proactively (elevating one's one status) or reactively (degrading the status of others).
Mockery or derision is still a function of humor, much as it is a function of society: it is used to encourage or discourage behavior as a means of expressing and enforcing social norms. Those who deviate from what is acceptable are scorned by those who presume to define what is acceptable behavior.
This is plainly evident in the behavior of children: teasing, shunning, and even bullying others is a method of asserting personal control over social standards while punishing those who do not comply with the aggressor's notion of what is acceptable.
Being the object of mockery is a form of ostracism, and schoolchildren are well aware of the shame of being laughed at, and the comfort of being laughed with. And by this mechanism humor defines, communicates, and enforces the status quo.
(EN: The author briefly mentions teasing and bullying for certain traits - as it has always been considered inappropriate to mock someone for some trait that cannot be amended. A person cannot change their gender, ethnicity, a deformity, or the like and so mockery is pointless. But in the modern day there remains a conflict over forms of mockery for traits that cannot easily be changed - a person who is overweight or homosexual can change their behavior, but whether it is politically correct for others to encourage them to do so is questionable.)
Overview of the Theories
Theories of superiority, disparagement, and degradation are the oldest form of humor, dating back as far as the Greek philosophers. Plato state that all laughter originates in malice - mocking the ridiculous in other people and taking pleasure in seeing the misfortune of an enemy or even a friendly rival. Aristotle saw humor as a means of mocking people who are worse than average: the difference between tragedy and comedy is whether we feel sympathy for the victim or believe their misfortune to be well deserved. In their view, feelings of disgust and contempt for others were reinforcing our own sense of virtue - though doing so excessively makes a person a "vulgar buffoon" whose contempt is indiscriminate.
Thomas Hobbes echoed this in seventeenth-century England, suggesting that scornful laughter is "sudden glory" in recognizing our superiority to those who suffer deserved misfortunes. In essence, there is a sense of personal triumph in recognizing that we have not befallen the same fate - and this is a reward for our own virtues.
In the late twentieth century, Charles Gruner theorized that humor was to some degree aggressive in its nature - though it may be "playful aggression" rather than genuine aggression, it is nonetheless aggressive. He theorized that humor was a form of play, much like the play-fighting of animals, used to test and reinforce the social order. And in such a game, there are always winners and losers - and the former have won the prize of being permitted to mock the latter, who must be good natured in absorbing their derision as punishment for losing.
In this sense, laughter is a "roar of triumph" and expels the leftover energy in the wake of a competition - it signals the end of battle, and finds a more productive use for the adrenaline than continuing to wail upon a foe who is already defeated - and in that sense the vanquished party's tolerance of being mocked is because it is a much better alternative than continuing to be pummeled until the victor tires.
There's a brief mention of group humor, in which sport is made of a group of people verbally to relieve social tensions. In these instances it is not to expel leftover energy in the wake of a physical conflict, but a substitute for the attack itself. And in the same way, the subjects of derision must accept and be thankful because the energy is channeled in a way that does them no physical harm.
Opponents of this theory are quick to point out non-aggressive forms of humor that are not derisive. But even in these instances, Gruner portrays humor as competitive - a battle of wits in which people attempt to outdo one another in exchanges of clever remarks until one party loses the fight by being unable to outdo the other, or whether the groans of bystanders judge a retort to have failed and, simultaneously, to deride the loser.
There is also a competitive element to seemingly non-aggressive forms of humor, particularly when the humor is subtle. The simple act of failure to understand a joke is a sign of intellectual inferiority to the individual who told it - and people are often embarrassed and humiliated when they recognize their slow-wittedness in arrears.
In this sense, the "social laugh" that is often considered to be a gesture of gratitude to a person who attempted to share the gift of mirth by telling a joke that is not funny or understood is also a defense mechanism - the person who laughs, even though they don't get the joke, is covering up the fact that they fail to understand.
Another form of aggression in jokes challenges the tolerance of the listener: any "sick" or "dirty" joke is a challenge to laugh or cringe, and those who choose to cringe are judged as intellectually inferior to those who choose to laugh.
The notion of aggression is further extended to jokes that are meant to communicate cooperation in aggression. In this instance, the person who tells a joke is testing or confirming his alliance with another party against a third-party, even if that third party is not present. Racial humor often takes this form, as a method of confirming a mutual hatred or disparagement with others.
Gruner even categorizes self-deprecating humor as aggressive: when we mock our own past behavior, we are suggesting that we have become superior to our former selves - that is, we have grown past the point at which we were before. When we mock our present habits, we are merely suggesting to others that our behavior is eccentric but acceptable, and issues a challenge to disagree in defiance of anyone who would say otherwise.
(EN: I do credit Gruner for being very thorough in his approach, but sense he might be stretching things a bit.)
Implications of the Theories
The positive perspective on humor in the present day has made the superiority theory highly unpopular, but it cannot be denied that humor is on occasions hostile, aggressive, and even cruel - but most people prefer to exclude these behaviors from the notion of humor. At the very least, the trend of "political correctness" has deemed aggressive humor to be inappropriate in polite society.
However, there is positive value of negative humor, in that it allows people to vent their frustration or hostility to others rather than expressing their anger in more detrimental ways. To eradicate humor of this nature altogether is, in essence, to remove a valuable coping mechanism, and to leave individuals no option but to act on aggression.
Negative humor is also an outlet of frustration for those who are oppressed, and is in this way a form of political speech: to express contempt for something is to have the right to hold contempt for it, and those who oppose negative humor in regard to some topics tend to practice it in regard to others - so the objections are obviously motivated by personal agendas, and suppression of "unacceptable" humor is merely a passive-aggressive attempt at exerting control.
There is a brief mention of "gallows humor" and "black humor" that are pronounced among the oppressed - and the manner in which people who find themselves in unpleasant situations with little hope of improvement find comfort in humor. Humor of this nature is highly popular under oppressive regimes, such as the Soviet Union.
The theory that all humor is based on aggression yields to the hypothesis that the more aggressive the joke, the funnier it will be.
One study (McCauley 1983) looked for correlation between ratings of cartoons taken from magazines: one group was asked to rate their aggressiveness, another their funniness. Statistically, some correlation was found when testing with a variety of groups" children and adults, wealthy and poor, domestic and foreign.
Other research (Zillmann 1974) suggests that the level of aggression of a funny cartoon is moderate - too much aggression "squelches" the humor. This supports the notion that humor is playful aggression, as more extreme instances of aggression are no longer found humorous.
Another study (Deckers 1986) prompted participants to rate the pain expressed by the victim of aggressive humor rather than the aggression expressed by the antagonist. The funniness ratings were more closely correlated to the pain then to the hostility - though they tended to level off sooner. Again, there was a point at which pain was no longer humorous, but this nonetheless suggests that the source of humor is witnessing someone suffer, albeit in an unrealistic and playful context.
Another hypothesis is that people who have more hostile and aggressive personality types will find greater humor than do less aggressive individuals. While some studies found a correlation to the degree to which aggressive individuals enjoy hostile humor, there was no indication that they had greater appreciation of humor in general.
A significant amount of research has been put in the area of disparagement humor, particularly during the 1960s and 1970s. Most of this focused on the social relationship between the witness, the aggressor, and the victim of disparagement. Not surprisingly, individuals found humor to be funny when they identified with the aggressor, and not funny when they identified with the victim.
However, it is also found that those who have a sense of security in their social status are more capable of finding humor in a joke that disparages their class: men are better able to laugh at a joke in which a female disparages a male then are women able to appreciate the humor of a joke in which a male disparages a female; and whites find anti-white humor funnier than blacks find anti-black humor.
A person's politics, in general, influence their appreciation of aggressive humor: they are more likely to find humor funny when it disparages public figures they oppose than when the humor disparages those they support. The same goes for groups within a society: the more an individual sympathizes with a group and feels it to be in a position of weakness, the less humorous they find disparagement of that group.
Likewise, the social ranks of the aggressor and his victim impact the appreciation of humor: when a worker insults his supervisor, it is funny, but when a supervisor insults a worker, it is not. This seems to support the notion of humor as a coping mechanism: it is more acceptable for the member of the oppressed group to use humor to "rebel" against the status quo than it is for an oppressor to use humor to support the status quo.
It's noted that in present culture, it is consider immoral to take amusement of pleasure in the misfortunes of others, even those whom we dislike - but within the context of humor, particularly that which depicts imaginary scenarios, it becomes acceptable because the situation is not real, and the humor is playful.
There can be little doubt that there is a relationship between aggression and humor, but it is a stretch to suggest that aggression is present in every form of humor. In a basic sense, some humor is aggressive - but some humor is not. Hence those theories of humor that focus on superiority and disparagement can be informative only to those instances in which aggression is involved.
Correspondingly, the evidence of a connection between aggression and humor is inconsistent in establishing a causal relationship, and proponents of the theory can be very contrived in the analysis of outcomes - rather stubbornly striving to prove the connection rather than passively observing whether the connection exists.
Even when a joke is plainly benign, those who seek to prove aggression will suggest that the person who told the joke had aggressive intentions in the act of telling it, regardless of its content. In essence, this is retreating into theory when an experiment fails to produce (or even contradicts) the desired outcome.
Given that research and theory has gravitated toward a favorable impression of humor, the superiority and disparagement theories have fallen into disfavor and disuse. It is likely as much of an error to assume that aggression is entirely absent as it is to assume that it is omnipresent.
That is, to reject the notion that aggression is always present in humor and accept the opposite notion that aggression is never present is irrational and counterproductive - it is present in some humor, not present in other humor. As such these theories can be highly useful in analyzing aggressive humor and entirely useless in analyzing humor that is not aggressive.
(EN: To take it a bit further, humor can be analyzed by its mechanics or its intent. The mechanics of humor ask whether a joke is funny, and is largely focused on how it is interpreted by the listener. The intent of humor asks what someone meant to accomplish by telling a joke, and is largely focused on the motivation of the speaker. It's much in the same way that analysis of literature can focus on the reader's interpretation or the writer's intent. Both are valid approaches, and subject to quite some disparity.)
(EN: It seems to me the author left out a form of humor that is of particular interest to me: the jayus, which is a joke that is so poorly told and so devoid of humor that the listener laughs at the stupidity and clumsiness of the teller. This seems to be a clear instance in which the superiority-disparagement theory of humor would apply.)
The present chapter has reviewed two of the major theories of humor that were very influential in recent decades, but both of which have waned in popularity in the academic community.
While they are losing prominence, they have provided a significant amount of valuable research into the study of humor, which should not be discarded along with the theories.
They are not the only approaches to humor, as the next few chapters will show, but they were at one time both popular and prominent, and it can be expected that many are still "stuck" in these models of the recent past and should be aware of their predilection for them.