Henri de Jongste
[Topics in Humor Research 9] 2020
► pp. 197–243
Chapter 9. Playing with negotiating public mental models
In the previous chapter, we saw how the collective senders of The Office use the presentation of public mental models as a resource for comedy. However, when they communicate, people do more than merely presenting their public mental models to each other. They also engage in a negotiation process aimed at establishing an overlap between their public mental models. Such an overlap can serve as a basis for further co-operation, under the condition that private mental models are felt to be sufficiently similar and compatible as well. This aspect of discursive behaviour, which includes offering the proper amount of helpfulness to achieve a sufficient degree of similarity and compatibility, and which includes the re-construction of private mental models, is another source of comedy for the collective senders of The Office. There are many scenes in the sitcom in which, for a variety of reasons, the negotiating process stalls or fails, and no overlap emerges. As in the previous chapter, we will look at diminishments in the characters’ role performances in a telic state as well as in a para-telic state that explain the lack of success. In addition, some scenes involve characters in different meta-motivational states, which makes it impossible to reach an overlap in mental models.