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Children's Appreciation of Humor: A Test of the Cognitive Congruency Principle

Paul E. McGhee
Child Development
Vol. 47, No. 2 (Jun., 1976), pp. 420-426
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for Research in Child Development
DOI: 10.2307/1128797
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1128797
Page Count: 7
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Children's Appreciation of Humor: A Test of the Cognitive Congruency Principle
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Abstract

Earlier studies of attention in infancy and of problem solving in young children provided support for a "discrepancy hypothesis," which proposes an inverted-U relationship between amount of discrepancy between existing cognitive structures and current stimulus input and amount of pleasure derived from the successful processing of that input. The present studies were designed in an effort to demonstrate a comparable relationship with respect to children's appreciation of humor. Children varying in the degree of (or length of time since) acquisition of conservation and class inclusion concepts were presented jokes in which the humor depicted derived from the violation of these 2 concepts. The results indicated that humor appreciation was greatest soon after the concepts were acquired, with reduced appreciation shown both by subjects who did not possess the concepts and by subjects who had mastered them several years previously. Support was claimed for the view than an optimal moderate amount of cognitive challenge is associated with maximal appreciation of humor.

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