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ERIC Number: ED123507
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1975-Aug
Pages: 27
Abstractor: N/A
Reference Count: N/A
Testing a Theory of Laughter.
Scheff, Thomas J.
This paper proposes and tests a theory of catharsis of repressed emotion. The key concept in this theory is the balance of attention, a concept that is shown to be equivalent to aesthetic distance. Laughter and other emotional releases occur when one's attention is equally divided between a distressful past event and the safe present. In the audience for a drama, this situation occurs most frequently when the audience knows something that one or more of the characters don't know. To test this theory, a tape was obtained of the audience response to a play (Twelfth Night). There were 281 instances of audience laughter. To predict these instances, the script was independently coded for discrepant awareness. For example, the audience knows that the heroine, Viola, is disguised as a man. Every line in the script in which she is referred to as a man by a character who thinks she is a man is rated as an instance of discrepant awareness. Then the instances of laughter and of discrepant awareness are tabulated jointly. A moderately strong correlation is found, providing support for the theory of catharsis. The thesis of this article is that a theory of catharsis will help to predict the occurrence of several kinds of emotional response of which one is laughter. (Author/CJ)
Publication Type: Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: N/A
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A