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Title: Structure and function of the joke : an experimental and theoretical study
Author: Wilson, Christopher Paul
ISNI:       0000 0001 3570 0400
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: London School of Economics and Political Science (University of London)
Date of Award: 1977
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The first part of the thesis examines the structure of jokes. This structure is described in terms of 'form' and 'content'. It is proposed that jokes have an invariantly incongruous 'form' that may be expressed through a variety of 'contents'. A model of the nature of amusement is presented, and three experiments were conducted to determine the mechanisms by which the "formt and 'contents of jokes evoke amusement. It was observed that there is a curvilinear relationship between the incongruity and funniness of jokes. There is an optimal level of incongruity and funniness is reduced when this level is exceeded. When the 'content' of jokes describes inhibited impulses, 'form' and 'content' have interactive, rather than additive, effects in determining funniness. The funniness of the 'form' may boost the funniness of the 'content'. The 'timing' of jokes - the pause between build-up punch-line - influences the incongruity of the 'form' and the audience's awareness of the 'content'. An increase of timing-pause may enhance or reduce funniness, depending on the consequent level of incongruity of the 'form' and whether the 'content' expresses inhibited impulses. The second part of the thesis examines the personal and social functions of joking in everyday life. Joking is revealed to be a flexible, multi-functional, mode of communication, enabling the expression of friendliness and animosity, power and authority, aggression, criticism, social solidarity, sexual attraction and anxiety. Everyday joking has overwhelmingly conservative social functions, in fostering cognitive conservatism, in reinforcing established morality, ideology and power, in defusing recurrent social stresses and strains, in relieving feelings of rebelliousness and in punishing deviance.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available