A Complexity Science Account of Humor

Complexity Digest

Wolfgang Tschacher and Hermann Haken

Entropy 2023, 25(2), 341

A common assumption of psychological theories of humor is that experienced funniness results from an incongruity between stimuli provided by a verbal joke or visual pun, followed by a sudden, surprising resolution of incongruity. In the perspective of complexity science, this characteristic incongruity-resolution sequence is modeled by a phase transition, where an initial attractor-like script, suggested by the initial joke information, is suddenly destructed, and in the course of resolution replaced by a less probable novel script. The transition from the initial to the enforced final script was modeled as a succession of two attractors with different minimum potentials, during which free energy becomes available to the joke recipient. Hypotheses derived from the model were tested in an empirical study where participants rated the funniness of visual puns. It was found, consistent with the model, that the extent of incongruity and…

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