Interpreting Humor

           Home





The classification of humor into four types is not new among scholars, the types are known as: self-enhancing, Aggressive, Affiliative and Self-defeating. It is not difficult to see some correspondence between these and the four drives but there are differences in the definitions. 
Here, humor is usually the abrupt falsification of threat. George and Mary's four drives define the targets of threat: immediate self-preservation, protection of resources, mates and societies, and offspring. These define the target objects of the emotion, feeding, sociosexual and parenting drives respectively. Also, George's personality is different from Mary's; George externalizes while Mary internalizes their reactions to threat. So, the definition of humor will depend on the externalize-internalize divide: externalized humor falsifies threat at the source, internalized falsifies at the target. Here are some plausible examples and commentary.
George's personality: Externalizes the drives, threat source explicit.

Emotion: Self-assuring falsifying threat to self confidence at the source, slightly aggressive; Smile, it makes people wonder what you're up to.

Feeding: Aggressive towards the "others" with a perception of intrusion on your turf; I love defenseless animals; especially in a good gravy. 

SocioSex: Affiliative, messages unimportant, source of threat falsified; A stoned went to the airport to receive his father; he kissed the bag and carried his father.

Parenting: Self and authority demoting, offspring target not always clear, sources disappointed with their own authority; Be nice to your kids they'll choose your nursing home. I was born so ugly the doctor slapped my mother.

Mary's personality internalizes the drives, target explicit, threat may not be well-defined

Emotion: Self-assuring, I'm OK despite the threat, not aggressive; I don't suffer from stress; I am a carrier.

Feeding: Self-assuring, saved my turf, won the trophy, 'have enough; Never criticize your wife's faults, it might be those faults that's keeping her from getting a better husband.

SocioSex: Affiliative, meaningful message, the message was garbled but it came through; The telephone rang, the son answered; Is your dad there? yes the boy said, Do you know who I am? asked the man on the line, Daad someone on the phone who doesn't know who he is.

Parenting: Self-assuring for offspring; A child says to his teacher: Miss I love you and I want to marry you. She says: but I don't like children, he says: no problem Miss, we won't make any.