Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Katz, Albert


The primary purpose of this dissertation was to investigate how humour from written puns is produced. Prior models have emphasized that novel or surprising incongruities should be important to humour appreciation­ (Suls, 1972; Topolinski, 2014). In study 1, a new approach to operationalizing incongruity as semantic dissimilarity was developed and tested using Latent Semantic Analysis (Landauer, Foltz & Laham, 1998). “Latent semantic incongruity” was associated with humour ratings, but only for puns with low ratings of familiarity from a prior occasion or for those with a low level of aggressive content. Overall, there was also an unexpected strong positive association between familiarity with a pun from a prior occasion and humour ratings. Study 2 demonstrated that humour ratings for puns decreases with repeated exposures. Changes in humour with repetition were dependent on latent semantic incongruity, the duration of time spent comprehending the pun and providing humour ratings, and on how humour was measured. Study 3 investigated whether “elaboration” on the two implied concepts in each pun was associated with humour (as predicted by Wyer & Collins, 1992). Elaboration quantity (the number of associated words that participants could comfortably list) and elaboration duration (the duration of time participants spent on the elaboration task) were associated with humour ratings, but only for familiar puns. In summary, fluent comprehension of incongruity was important to humour from unfamiliar puns, whereas elaboration on the implied concepts in puns was important to humour appreciation for puns that were familiar from a prior occasion.