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International Journal of Humor Research

Editor-in-Chief: Ford, Thomas E.

4 Issues per year

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Volume 19, Issue 1 (Feb 2006)


Humor appreciation as an adaptive esthetic emotion

Glenn E Weisfeld
Published Online: 2006-05-02 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/HUMOR.2006.001


This article describes ethological analyses of the arts, and notes parallels between the arts and humor. Artists create novel, mentally challenging, informative stimulus arrays that exploit our evolved stimulus preferences. We appreciate these artistic offerings, and reward the artist. Similarly, jokes are informative, elegant, and appreciated. As in the arts and in primate social play, the humorist signals an intention to entertain and then provides the enriching experience. The recipient acknowledges this benefit, and returns the favor somehow; both parties gain in fitness. This explanation, that humor is edifying and mutually beneficial, is consistent with various features of humor and with evolutionary theory. For example, jokes often have a butt, from whom we can learn to avoid missteps. Similarly, jokes often pertain to fitness-salient topics such as sex. This theory is contrasted with other functional explanations. Research findings in neuroscience, genetics, and animal behavior are integrated with the theory.

Keywords: Humor; humor appreciation; humor production; esthetics; fitness; laughter

About the article

Published Online: 2006-05-02

Published in Print: 2006-02-20

Citation Information: Humor – International Journal of Humor Research, ISSN (Online) 1613-3722, ISSN (Print) 0933-1719, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/HUMOR.2006.001.

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