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International Journal of Humor Research

Editor-in-Chief: Ford, Thomas E.

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Volume 28, Issue 3


Thinking fast and slow in the experience of humor

Larry Ventis
  • Corresponding author
  • Department of Psychology - College of William and Mary P. O. Box 8795, Williamsburg, Virginia 23187-8795 USA
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Published Online: 2015-08-05 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/humor-2015-0070


The present work theorizes that the experience of humor relies on distinct roles for each of the two thought modes identified by Kahneman (2011): Intuitive and Reflective Thought. A listener’s Intuitive Thought early in a joke is hypothesized to increase the probability of experiencing incongruity. Reflective Thought is hypothesized to be the mechanism for resolving the incongruity in a joke. If the latter hypothesis is valid, measures of Reflective Thought should be more closely associated with Humor Cognition (Feingold 1983) than would intelligence. SAT Total score was used to represent tested IQ (Frey and Detterman 2004), and the Cognitive Reflection Test (Frederick 2005) and SAT Critical Reading score were used to represent Reflective Thought. Participants consisted of 148 university students, 79 females, 67 males, and 2 undesignated. Partial correlation analysis revealed that controlling for SAT Critical Reading, SAT Total had no relationship to Humor Cognition (r=–0.04, n.s.). However, controlling for SAT Total, SAT Critical Reading and Humor Cognition remain significantly correlated (r=0.33, p<0.001).

Keywords: humor; intuitive thought; reflective thought; incongruity; resolution


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About the article

Larry Ventis

Larry Ventis is a Professor of Psychology at the College of William and Mary in Virginia. He earned his Ph.D. in clinical psychology at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. His research has largely focused on the psychology of humor and the psychology of religion. His previous humor research included an examination of the use of humor to counter fear. Recent research on religion has focused on implicit religious attitudes and the development of the Christian Humanist Implicit Association Test (CH IAT).

Published Online: 2015-08-05

Published in Print: 2015-08-01

Citation Information: HUMOR, Volume 28, Issue 3, Pages 351–373, ISSN (Online) 1613-3722, ISSN (Print) 0933-1719, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/humor-2015-0070.

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