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International Journal of Humor Research

Editor-in-Chief: Ford, Thomas E.

IMPACT FACTOR 2018: 0.558
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Volume 25, Issue 4


Disclosure humor and distortion humor: A reversal theory analysis

Director Michael J. Apter, / Mitzi Desselles,
Published Online: 2012-11-08 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/humor-2012-0021


It is proposed that a distinction should be made between two fundamentally different kinds of humor. In disclosure humor, an identity (person, statement, etc.) is disclosed as having different characteristics/meanings from those originally supposed by the observer. In distortion humor, new characteristics are imaginatively added to the identity in a way that leads to absurdity. In both cases, incompatible attributes are experienced in relation to the identity concerned, this apparent escape from Aristotle's law of identity being made possible by one of the attributes being experienced as real and the other as an appearance. In both cases, humor is only experienced when the identity is diminished in the eyes of the observer. In the case of disclosure humor, the diminishment relates to the “real” attribute, while in the case of distortion humor it relates to the “apparent” attribute. This novel distinction is presented as an extension of the reversal theory of humor (Apter 1982), and is used to develop a taxonomy of humor that also involves the dichotomy of transitional and non-transitional humor, as well as three different levels of reference. Throughout, these concepts are illustrated with many kinds of humor, including jokes, parody, caricature, farce, riddles and slapstick.

Keywords: reversal theory; cognitive synergy; paratelic state; disclosure humor; distortion humor

About the article

Published Online: 2012-11-08

Published in Print: 2012-11-14

Citation Information: Humor, Volume 25, Issue 4, Pages 417–435, ISSN (Online) 1613-3722, ISSN (Print) 0933-1719, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/humor-2012-0021.

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©[2012] by Walter de Gruyter Berlin Boston.Get Permission

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