A Dynamic and Dual-Process Theory of Humor
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The cognitive mechanism of humor has been studied for centuries, with multiple seemingly incompatible theories proposed. Recent research in emotions suggests human emotions are tightly coupled and closely interact with other types of cognitive processes. This entangled nature contributes to the difficulty of humor research. In this paper, I attempt to provide a single, unified framework of humor, grounded in recent developments on emotion and dual-process cognition. I propose that humor comprehension consists of a four-step dynamic process: surprise, reflection, dismissal and compensation. The proposed theory provides a modern update on existing theories of humor, and is capable of explaining several phenomena that cannot be easily explained by existing theories. I also discuss the implication of the theory on creating computational systems that can create or perceive humor.