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Completed research project

Title / Titel Humor appreciation and personality: The 3 WD studies
PDF Abstract (PDF, 14 KB)
Summary / Zusammenfassung What aspects are reflected in individual differences in the perception of humor? Humor theorists have long acknowledged that, in humor, content and structure (or: joke work vs. tendency [Freud 1905]; thematic vs. schematic [Sears 1934]; cogni¬tive vs. arctic factors [Eysenck 1942]) have to be distinguished as two different sources of pleasure, and also factor analytic studies confirm that both are potent variance-producing factors. While intuitive and rational taxonomies typically distinguish only between content classes, factor analytic studies show that structural properties of jokes and cartoons are at least as important as their content, with two factors consistently appearing: namely, incongruity-resolution (INC-RES) humor and nonsense (NON) humor. Jokes and cartoons of these factors have different contents (e.g., themes, targets) but are similar with respect to structural properties and the way they are processed. Jokes and cartoons of the INC-RES humor category are characterized by punch lines in which the surprising incongruity can be completely resolved. The common element in this type of humor is that the recipient first discovers an incongruity which is then fully resolvable upon consideration of information available elsewhere in the joke or cartoon. Nonsense humor also has a surprising or incongruous punch line, however, the punch line may 1) provide no resolution at all, 2) provide a partial resolution (leaving an essential part of the incongruity unresolved), or 3) actually create new absurdities or incongruities. In nonsense humor the resolution information gives the appearance of making sense out of incongruities without actually doing so. There is evidence for different neural bases of INC-RES and NON humor (Samson, Zysset and Huber 2008). The third factor, sexual (SEX) humor, may have either structure, but is homogeneous with respect to sexual content. Factor analysis was also used to uncover the dimensions of appreciation. Results show that the response mode in humor appreciation is defined by two nearly orthogonal components of positive and negative responses best represented by ratings of funniness and aversiveness (Ruch 1992). Maximal appreciation of jokes and cartoons consists of high funniness and low aversiveness; while minimal appreciation occurs if the joke is not considered funny but is found aversive. However, a joke can also be considered not funny but be far from being aversive; or it can make one laugh although there are certain annoying aspects (e.g., one can consider the punch line original or clever but dislike the content of the joke). The 3 WD (3 Witz-Dimensionen) test of humor appreciation (Ruch 1992) is a performance test measuring funniness and aversiveness of incongruity-resolution humor, nonsense humor and sexual humor in which 35 jokes and cartoons are rated on two seven-point scales (e.g., 0 = not at all funny; 6 = very funny). Internal reliability (alpha coefficients) of the six regular scales rage from .81 to .91, and the retest reliability (4 weeks) ranges from .60 to .74. The 3 WD scales correlate with various measures of preference for different types of art (especially with the simplicity-complexity dimension) underscoring the similarity between appreciation of humor and of aesthetics. Finally, a myriad of studies examined correlations with various dimensions of personality, attitudes and values, and so on (see reviews in Ruch 1992, 2002; Ruch & Hehl 2007).

The project attempts to validate these conecpts in the field of aesthetics and mental imagery. Appreciation of the structural humor categories is expected to correlate with liking of grqtesque texts of different levels and to parameters of mental imagery.
Publications / Publikationen Carretero-Dios, H. & Ruch, W. (2010). Humor appreciation and sensation seeking: Invariance of findings across culture and assessment instrument? Humor: International Journal of Humor Research, 23, 427-445. doi:10.1515/HUMR.2010.020

Hempelmann, Ch. F. & Ruch, W. (2005). 3 WD Meets GTVH: Breaking the ground for interdisciplinary humor research. Humor-International journal of humor research, 18, 353-338. doi:10.1515/humr.2005.18.4.353

Platt, T., & Ruch, W. (2014). 3 WD Humor Test. In S. Attardo (Ed.), Encyclopedia of humor studies (pp. 763-765). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Ruch, W., Beermann, U., & Proyer, R. T. (2009). Investigating the humor of gelotophobes: Does feeling ridiculous equal being humorless? Humor: International Journal of Humor Research, 22(1-2), 111-143. doi:10.1515/HUMR.2009.006

Ruch, W. & Hehl, F.-J. (2007). A two-mode model of humor appreciation: Its relation to aesthetic appreciation and simplicity-complexity of personality. In: W. Ruch (Ed.), The sense of humor: Explorations of a personality characteristic. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 109-142. doi:10.1515/9783110804607.109

Ruch, W. & Köhler, G. (2007). A temperament approach to humor. In: W. Ruch (Ed.), The sense of humor: Explorations of a personality characteristic. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 203-230.

Ruch, W. & Malcherek, J. (2009). Sensation seeking, general aesthetic preferences, and humor appreciation as predictors of liking of the grotesque. Journal of Literary Theory, 3, 333-352. doi:10.1515/JLT.2009.018

Weber, M., Ruch, W., Riemann, R., Spinath, F. M., & Angleitner, A. (2014). A twin study on humor appreciation: The importance of separating structure and content. Journal of Individual Differences, 35, 130-136. doi: 0.1027/1614-0001/a000136

Weitere Informationen

Keywords / Suchbegriffe humor appreciation, funniness, aversiveness, personality, 3WD, structure, content, jokes, cartoons
Project leadership and contacts /
Projektleitung und Kontakte
Prof.Dr. Willibald Ruch (Project Leader)
Other links to external web pages
Funding source(s) /
Unterstützt durch
Universität Zürich (position pursuing an academic career), No project-specific funding
Duration of Project / Projektdauer Jul 2008 to Oct 2011