There is a striking divide, in the literature on comedy, between approaches that stress the social functions of humor, including social control and alleviation of social stresses, and approaches that focus on the psychological mechanisms of humor, including incongruity and arousal. These two kinds of approach have proven quite resistant to integration, because they are rooted in fundamentally different understandings of the pleasure of humor. Put simply, the pleasure of the put-down is hard to square with the pleasure of the pun. This article examines new scientific research on humor, including recent brain imaging studies, to see if there is any evidence for an empirical divide. The conclusion, in practical analytical terms, is that when, near the start of Shaun of the Dead (2004), Shaun fails to notice that he is surrounded by zombies, our perception of the inappropriateness of the character's actions and our perception of the playfulness of the depiction are both necessarily involved in our perception of the scene's funniness.
A Reply to Critics
cinema, research not only in hedonic psychology but also in the psychology of humor, emotion, insight, expertise, interest, processing fluency, coping, aesthetics, well-being, and other areas. As Cutting notes, the Berlyne studies fail to capture the