What is humor?

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The great American writer E. B. White wrote: Some claim that humor cannot or should not be explained.  Humor can be dissected as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to anything but the pure scientific mind.

Humor is hard to define. One dictionary defined humor as recreational drollery. In fact, there is no general theory of humor or even an agreed definition.

In research, this is what has been determined.  Humor encompasses three components: wit, merriment, and laughter. Wit is the cognitive component of the experience of humor.  Merriment is the emotional experience; and laughter is the physiological experience.

Sigmund Freud considered humor an outlet for discharging pent up psychic energy and diminishing the importance of potentially damaging events.

Laughter is often equated with humor.  There are many instances of laughter which do not come from humor, i.e., tickling, nervousness.  There are instances of humor that do not result in laughter. 

People often assume that in order for something to be thought of as humorous, it should evoke laughter.  While comedians may use that as a measure of success, this is not the case fo humor at work.  Anything that relaxes the body, gets people to smile, or elicits happiness is humor.  The most important thing to remember is humor should be beneficial to work and life. 

One definition that makes sense is that humor is the quality of perception that enables a person to experience joy often times when faced with adversity. To further extend the understanding of humor is that it is intended to induce amusement. Humor may also be the ability to perceive, enjoy, or express what is amusing, comical, or absurd.

It is impossible to feel stress, anger, depression, anxiety, guilt, and experience humor at the same time.  Like beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, humor is in the funny bone of  the receiver of the experience.



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