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Journal Article

Cognitive Development and Children's Comprehension of Humor

Paul E. McGhee
Child Development
Vol. 42, No. 1 (Mar., 1971), pp. 123-138
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for Research in Child Development
DOI: 10.2307/1127069
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1127069
Page Count: 16
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Cognitive Development and Children's Comprehension of Humor
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Abstract

This study investigated the relationship between children's level of cognitive functioning (according to Piaget's theoretical framework) and their comprehension and appreciation of humor based on violation of cognitive expectancies. A distinction was drawn between novelty and incongruity humor, differing in the nature of expectancy violation represented. The general hypothesis tested was that operational thinking is necessary for comprehension of incongruity humor but is not necessary for comprehension of novelty humor. The Ss were 30 boys at each of 3 age levels: 5, 7, and 9. The above hypothesis was confirmed only for the 7-year-old group. Also, for the incongruity humor (but not novelty humor), operational thinking was found to be an important factor in the ability to give interpretive, as opposed to descriptive, explanations. Level of cognitive development was not significantly related to humor appreciation for either novelty or incongruity humor. Analyses of age differences indicated consistent significant increases in comprehension with increasing age for all humor stimuli. Similar analyses for humor appreciation yielded no significant age differences.

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