The notion and action of laughing at the pain of others inevitably raises moral questions, particularly when the pain is deliberately inflicted. To laugh at someone’s pain in real life is likely to provoke a feeling of unease in the moment of laughing or guilt after the fact. If we see somebody slipping on ice we may laugh at the contortions of their body. We may laugh as they hit the ground, partly as a release of tension. In such a situation though most adults will also experience a counter response which relates to a self-judgement; raising the question was it right of me to have laughed at that? In everyday life, however, most adults would agree that it is wrong to laugh at the real suffering of others. If we laugh at somebody falling off a chair and then discover they are really hurt, we stop laughing. In life, just as when we watch a performance, we are making a series of rapid judgements about how significant the pain might be. The more significant the pain the less likely we are to laugh. Our response is also likely to be influenced by considerations of deservedness and justice. If the victim of pain is of higher status than the inflictor, we are more likely to laugh than in the opposite situation. In an earlier chapter we considered the sense of natural justice which is triggered when a small boy knocks the top hat off a gentleman with a snowball. If we witness a child being pelted with snowballs by an adult we are more likely to feel outrage than to be amused.
KeywordsMoral Judgement Sound Effect Performance Frame Comic Frame Natural Justice
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