Henri de Jongste
[Topics in Humor Research 9] 2020
► pp. 81–105
Chapter 5. Humour theories and mental models (1)
If we want to understand other interactants’ position, it is essential to make adequate inferences of other people’s public mental models and to come to a reliable hypothesis of what their private mental models are. When there seems to be a significant difference between the public and the private mental models at stake, this triggers the search for the a priori intent leading to the differences between the two mental-model versions. One form that such a priori intent can take is humorous intent.
Humorous intent is defined as a form of a priori intent involving the presentation of public mental models which deviate from the speaker’s private mental models and which are consequently not sincere. In addition, the principle of helpfulness is partly suspended, and in this manner, mental-model construction by the recipient is made challenging. In a telic state of mind, such insincerity is valued negatively, as it obstructs the goal-driven interaction. In a para-telic state of mind, however, the discovery of the insincerity and the underlying humorous intent without the normal degree of helpfulness can be turned into a playful challenge enjoyed for its own sake. To meet such a challenge, the recipient needs to make correct inferences about the agent’s public mental model, as well as re-construct enough of the agent’s private mental model to detect the agent’s deviation and his or her humorous, a priori intent. An important question is how such a notion of humour relates to theories of humour that take another perspective. Therefore, besides discussing the above, we also look at the classical humour theories focusing on superiority, psychological relief and incongruity from a mental-model point of view.