The Role of Arousal and Hemispheric Lateralization in Humor



The interdisciplinary focus of these two volumes underscores the fact that humor can be explained or discussed from many different vantage points. This diversity is essential to the ultimate achievement of a comprehensive understanding of humor. Most attempts to explain humor have focused on cognitive, social, emotional, linguistic, psychodynamic, sociological, or anthropological variables, as these two volumes attest. Relatively little attention has been given to more reductive explanations of humor. The present chapter will focus on theoretical issues and data related to psychophysiological explanations of humor.


Left Hemisphere Positive Linear Relationship Hemispheric Lateralization Arousal Change Arousal Increase 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


Reference Notes

  1. 1.
    Fry, W. F. Instinctual and physiologic bases of the humor experience. Paper presented at the meeting of the Western Psychological Association, Vancouver, September 1969.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Panagis, D. H., Leventhal, H., & Caputo, G. C. Sex differences in integrating focal and contextual cues. Unpublished manuscript, University of Wisconsin, 1975.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Sackheim, H. A., Weiman, A. L., Gur, R. C. Greenberg, M. S., & Hungerbuhler, J. P. Functional brain asymmetry in the experience of positive and negative emotions: Lateralization of insult in cases of uncontrollable emotional outbursts. Unpublished manuscript, 1980.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Geschwind, N. An approach to a theory of localization of audition in the human brain. Paper presented at the International Neuropsychology Symposium, Roc-Amadour, France, 1976.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Brownell, H. H., Michel, D., Powelson, J., & Gardner, H. Surprise and coherence: Sensitivity to verbal humor in right hemisphere patients. Unpublished manuscript, 1982.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Fouts, R. S. Chimpanzee language and humor. Paper presented at meeting of the Second International Conference on Humor, Los Angeles, August 1979.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Caputo, G. C., & Leventhal, H. Sex differences in lateralization effects for holistic-subjective processing. Unpublished manuscript, University of Wisconsin, 1975.Google Scholar


  1. Averill, J. R. Autonomic response patterns during sadness and mirth. Psychophysiologic, 1969, 5, 399–414.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Berlyne, D. E. Conflict, arousal and curiosity. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1960.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Berlyne, D. E. Laughter, humor and play. In G. Lindzey & E. Aronson (Eds.), Handbook of social psychology (2nd ed., Vol. 3). Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1969.Google Scholar
  4. Berlyne, D. E. Humor and its kin. In J. H. Goldstein & P. E. Mhee (Eds.), The psychology of humor: Theoretical perspectives and empirical issues. New York: Academic Press, 1972.Google Scholar
  5. Bever, T. G. Broca and Lashley were right: Cerebral dominance is an accident of growth. In D. Capian (Ed.),. Biological studies of mental processes. Cambridge, Mass: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, 1980.Google Scholar
  6. Cantor, J. R., Bryant, J., & Zillmann, D. Enhancement of humor appreciation by transferred excitation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1974, 30, 812–821.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chapman, A. J. An electromyographic study of apprehension about evaluation. Psychological Reports, 1973, 33, 811–814.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chapman, A. J. Social aspects of humorous laughter. In A. J. Chapman & H. C. Foot (Eds.), Humour and laughter: Theory, research and applications. London: Wiley, 1976.Google Scholar
  9. Christiansen, B. Thus speaks the body. New York: Arno Press, 1972.Google Scholar
  10. Cupchik, G. C., & Leventhal, H. Consistency between expressive behavior and the evaluation of humorous stimuli: The role of sex and self-observation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1974, 30, 429–442.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Darwin, C. The expression of the emotions in man and animals. London: Murray, 1872.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Das, J. P., Kirby, J. R., & Jarman, R. F. Simultaneous and successive synthesis: An alternative model for cognitive abilities. Psychological Bulletin, 1975, 82, 87–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Das, J. P., Kirby, J. R., & Jarman, R. F. Simultaneous and successive cognitive processes. New York: Academic Press, 1979.Google Scholar
  14. Deckers, L., & Devine, J. Humor by violating an existing expectancy. Journal of Psychology, 1981, 108 107–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Deckers, L., & Kizer, P. Humor and the incongruity hypothesis. Journal of Psychology, 1975, 90, 215–218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Flavell, J. Metacognition and cognitive monitoring: A new arena of cognitive developmental inquiry. American Psychologist, 1979, 34, 906–911.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Flavell, J., Speer, J., Green, F., & August, D. The development of comprehension monitoring and knowledge about communication. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 1981, No. 192.Google Scholar
  18. Freud, S. Jokes and their relation to the unconscious. New York: Norton, 1960. (Originally Der witz und seine beziehung zum unbewessten. Leipzig and Vienna: Deuticke, 1905.)Google Scholar
  19. Fry, W. F., & Rader, C. The respiratory components of mirthful laughter. Journal of Biological Psychology, 1977, 19, 39–50.Google Scholar
  20. Fry, W. F., & Stoft, P. E. Mirth and oxygen saturation levels of peripheral blood. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 1971, 19, 76–84.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gainotti, G. Emotional behavior and hemispheric side of lesion. Cortex, 1972, 8, 41–55.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Gardner, H. The shattered mind. New York: Knopf, 1975.Google Scholar
  23. Gardner, H. How the split brain gets a joke. Psychology Today, February 1981, 74–78.Google Scholar
  24. Gardner, H., & Denes, G. Connotative judgements by aphasic patients on a pictorial adaptation of the semantic differential. Cortex, 1973, 9, 183–196.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Gardner, H., Ling, P. K., Flamm, L., & Silverman, J. Comprehension and appreciation of humorous material following brain damage. Brain, 1975, 98, 399–412.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gardner, H., Silverman, J., Wapner, W., & Zurif, E. B. The appreciation of antonymic contrasts in aphasia. Brain and Language, 1978, 6, 301–307.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Giles, H., & Oxford, G. S. Towards a multidimensional theory of laughter causation and its social implications. Bulletin of the British Psychological Society, 1970, 27, 97–105.Google Scholar
  28. Godkewitsch, M. Physiological and verbal indices of arousal in rated humour. In A. J. Chapman & H. C. Foot (Eds.), Humour and laughter: Theory, research and applications. London: Wiley, 1976.Google Scholar
  29. Goldstein, J. H., Harman, J., Mhee, P. E., & Karasik, R. Test of an information-processing model of humor: Physiological response changes during problem- and riddle-solving. Journal of General Psychology. 1975, 92, 59–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Gur, R. C., Packer, I. K., Hungerbuhler, J. P., Reivich, M., Obrist, W. D., Amarnek, W. S., & Sackheim, H. A. Differences in the distribution of gray and white matter in human cerebral hemispheres. Science, 1980, 207, 1126–1128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Habermann, G. Physiologie und phonetik des lauthaften Lachens. Leipzig: Barth, 1955.Google Scholar
  32. Jones, J. M., & Harris, P. E. Psychophysiological correlates of cartoon humor appreciation. Proceedings of the American Psychological Association, 1971, 6, 381–382.Google Scholar
  33. Kimura, D. Functional asymmetry of the human brain. Scientific American, 1973, 228, 70–78.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kutas, M., & Hillyard, S. A. Reading senseless sentences: Brain potentials reflect semantic incongruity. Science, 1980, 207, 203–204.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Langevin, R., & Day, H. I. Physiological correlates of humor. In J. H. Goldstein & P. E. Mhee (Eds.), The psychology of humor: Theoretical perspectives and empirical issues. New York: Academic Press, 1972.Google Scholar
  36. Leventhal, H., & Cupchik, G. C. The informational and facilitative effects of an audience upon expression and evaluation of humorous stimuli. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 1975, 11, 363–380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Leventhal, H., & Mace, W. The effect of laughter on evaluation of a slapstick movie. Journal of Personality, 1970, 38, 16–30.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Leventhal, H., & Safer, M. A. Individual differences, personality and humour appreciation: Introduction to symposium. In A. J. Chapman & H. C. Foot (Eds.), It’s a funny thing, humour. Oxford: Pergamon, 1977.Google Scholar
  39. Levi, L. The urinary output of adrenalin and noradrenalin during pleasant and unpleasant emotional states. Psychosomatic Medicine, 1965, 27, 80–85.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Lloyd, E. L. The respiratory mechanism in laughter. Journal of General Psychology, 1938, 10, 179–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Martin, L. J. Psychology of aesthetics: Experimental prospecting in the field of the comic. American Journal of Psychology, 1905, 16, 35–116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. McGhee, P. E. Children’s appreciation of humor: A test of the cognitive congruency principle. Child Development, 1976, 47, 420–426.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. McGhee, P. E. Humor: Its origin and development. San Francisco: Freeman, 1979.Google Scholar
  44. Milner, B. Laterality effects in audition. In V. B. Mountcastle (Ed.), Interhemispheric relations and cerebral dominance. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1962.Google Scholar
  45. Nerhardt, G. Humor and inclination to laugh: Emotional reactions to stimuli of different divergence from a range of expectancy. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 1970, 11, 185–195.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Nerhardt, G. Incongruity and funniness: Towards a new descriptive model. In A. J. Chapman & H. C. Foot (Eds.), Humour and laughter: Theory, research and applications. London: Wiley, 1976.Google Scholar
  47. Perria, L., Rosadini, G., & Rossi, G. F. Determination of side of cerebral dominance with Amobarbital. Archives of Neurology, 1961, 4, 173–181.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. Rothbart, M. K. Laughter in young children. Psychological Bulletin, 1973, 80, 247–256.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Rothbart, M. K. Incongruity, problem-solving and laughter. In A. J. Chapman & H. C. Foot (Eds.), Humor and laughter: Theory, research and applications. London: Wiley, 1976.Google Scholar
  50. Schachter, S., & Wheeler, L. Epinephrine, chlorpromazine, and amusement. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 1962, 65, 121–128.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Semmes, J. Hemispheric specialization: A possible clue to mechanism. Neuropsychologic 1968, 6, 11–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Shultz, T. R. The role of incongruity and resolution in children’s appreciation of cartoon humor. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 1972, 13, 456–477.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Shultz, T. R. A cognitive-developmental analysis of humour. In A. J. Chapman & H. C. Foot (Eds.), Humour and laughter: Theory, research and applications. London: Wiley, 1976.Google Scholar
  54. Spencer, H. The physiology of laughter. Macmillan’s Magazine, 1860, 1, 395–402.Google Scholar
  55. Springer, S. P., & Deutsch, G. Left brain, right brain. San Francisco: Freeman, 1981.Google Scholar
  56. Sroufe, L. A., & Waters, E. The ontogenesis of smiling and laughter: A perspective on the organization of development in infancy. Psychological Review, 1976, 83, 173–189.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Sroufe, L. A., & Wunsch, J. P. The development of laughter in the first year of life. Child Development, 1972, 43, 1326–1344.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Sternbach, R. Assessing differential autonomic patterns in emotions. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 1962, 6, 87–91.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Suls, J. M. A two-stage model for the appreciation of jokes and cartoons: An information-processing analysis. In J. H. Goldstein & P. E. McGhee (Eds.), The psychology of humor: Theoretical perspectives and empirical issues. New York: Academic Press, 1972.Google Scholar
  60. Svebak, S. Respiratory patterns as predictors of laughter. Psychophysiology, 1975, 12, 62–65.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Svebak, S. Some characteristics of resting respiration as predictors of laughter. In A. J. Chapman & H. C. Foot (Eds.), It’s a funny thing, humour. Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1977.Google Scholar
  62. Svebak, S. The effect of mirthfulness upon amount of discordant right-left occipital EEG alpha. Motivation and Emotion, 1982, 6, 133–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Terzian, H. Behavioral and EEG effects of intracarotid sodium amytal injection. Acta Neurochir, 1964, 72, 230–239.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Tomkins, S. Affect, imagery, consciousness (Vol. 1). New York: Springer, 1962.Google Scholar
  65. Tucker, D. M. Lateral brain function, emotion, and conceptualization, Psychological Bulletin, 1981, 89, 19–46.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Wapner, W., Hamby, S., & Gardner, H. The role of the right hemisphere in the apprehension of complex linguistic materials. Brain and Language, 1981, 14, 15–33.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Weinstein, E. A., & Kahn, R L. Denial of illness: Symbolic and physiological aspects. Springfield: Charles C. Thomas, 1955.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Werner, H. The concept of development from a comparative and organismic point of view. In D. B. Harris (Ed.), The concept of development. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1957.Google Scholar
  69. Wilson, C. P. Jokes: Form, content, use and function. New York: Academic Press, 1979.Google Scholar
  70. Winner, E., & Gardner, H. The comprehension of metaphor in brain-damaged patients. Brain, 1977, 100, 719–727.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Zigler, E., Levine, J., & Gould, L. Cognitive processes in the development of children’s appreciation of humor. Child Development, 1966, 37, 507–518.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Zigler, E., Levine, J., & Gould, L. Cognitive challenge as a factor in children’s humor appreciation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1967, 6, 332–336.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1983

Authors and Affiliations

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations