Date of Award


Publication Type

Doctoral Thesis

Degree Name





Psychology, Social.




Based on a theoretical reconceptualization of incongruity humour theory, an interactive approach (in which humour occurs as joint function of the stimulus situation and the mental experience of the organism) is posited in this investigation. Essential theoretical properties focus on conceptual functioning, a belief--attitude distinction, syntactic versus semantic formulations of "violation of expectancy", and a belief switching--belief change distinction. Mull (1949), Nerhardt (1970;1975;1976;1977), Deckers and Kizer (1974;1975), Hoppe (1976), Issar (1976), Mutuma (1976), and Tsang (1976) demonstrate the manipulation of psychophysical and psychosocial humour judgements in various experimental contexts. In the present study, five major hypotheses were experimentally tested: (1) Whether violation of belief expectancy occurs as a function of a range of expectation (Nerhardt, 1970,1975) or as a means of expectation (Deckers and Kizer, 1974,1975); (2) Whether heavy-to-light weights or light-to-heavy weights will generate contrast effect (Sherif-Hovland, 1961; Helson, 1964); (3) Whether subjects respond differentially to the violation of a narrow range of belief expectancy as opposed to the violation of a broad range of expectancy (Sherif et al., 1958; La Fave, 1977); (4) Whether subjects who are exposed frequently to beliefs respond differently from subjects who are infrequently exposed to beliefs (Sherif-Hovland, 1961; Sherif et al., 1965); and (5) Whether a heavy discrepant weight will be judged more incongruous than a light discrepant weight (Spencer, 1860; Gerber and Routh, 1975). Five dependent measures (amusement, threat, surprise, playful, and discrepant) were established for each of the five main hypotheses, generating twenty-five hypotheses in all. Hypotheses 1, 6, 11, 16, and 21 were all substantiated (p < .01): conditions in which range was varied were more amusing, less threatening, more surprising, more playful, and more discrepant than conditions in which mean was varied, lending support to Nerhardt's (1970;1975) findings in the context of a Sherif-Hovland social-judgement framework. Hypotheses 2, 7, 12, 17, and 22 failed to be substantiated: no contrast effects between the end-of-series weights and the discrepant weights occurred for either amusement, threat, surprise, playfulness, or discrepancy. The violation of a narrow range of belief expectancy generated significantly (p < .01) more amusement and playfulness (p < .05) for subjects than the violation of a broad range of belief expectancy, supporting hypotheses 3 and 8. A MANOVA did significantly (p < .01) provide support for hypotheses 3, 8, 13, 18, and 23. Subjects, who were frequently exposed to the initial series of weights, judged the same discrepant weight as significantly (p < .01) more amusing, surprising, playful, and discrepant than subjects who were infrequently exposed to the initial series of weights (substantiation for hypotheses 4, 9, 19, and 24). A MANOVA was significant (p < .05) for these frequency of exposure hypotheses (4, 9, 14, 19, and 24). As Sherif et al. (1958) suggest, subjects' responses were found to be more intense, when their level of commitment or degree of ego-involvement is aroused. The findings in this study demonstrate that it is possible to exact a similar effect with beliefs. For the last set of hypotheses (5,10, 15, 20, and 25), a discrepant weight, heavier than any of the other weights previously lifted, was judged to be significantly (p < .05) more playful and surprising than a light discrepant weight (hypotheses 10 and 20). The MANOVA, for this direction of discrepant weight hypothesis, was insignificant (p < .10). Interpretation of this data suggests that a quantification of Spencer's ascending/descending incongruity distinction may be illegitimate. This aspect of incongruity humour remains relatively unexplored, and further research on this important topic is suggested.Dept. of Psychology. Paper copy at Leddy Library: Theses & Major Papers - Basement, West Bldg. / Call Number: Thesis1980 .G944. Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 41-10, Section: B, page: 3933. Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Windsor (Canada), 1980.