Looking back: Joke comprehension and the space structuring model

Seana Coulson, Thomas P Urbach, Marta Kutas
2006 Humor: An International Journal of Humor Research  
AbstractWe describe the space structuring model, a model of language comprehension inspired by ideas in cognitive linguistics, focusing on its capacity to explain the sorts of inferences needed to understand one-line jokes. One process posited in the model is frame-shifting, the semantic and pragmatic reanalysis in which elements of the existing message-level representation are mapped into a new frame retrieved from long-term memory. To test this model, we recorded participants' eye movements
more » ... ts' eye movements with a headband-mounted eye-tracker while they read sentences that ended either as a joke, or as nonfunny controls ("She read so much about the bad effects of smoking she decided to give up the reading/habit.") . Only jokes required frame-shifting; nonjoke endings were consistent with the contextually evoked frame. Though initial gaze durations were the same for jokes and non-jokes, total viewing duration was longer for the jokes and participants were more likely to make regressive (leftward) eye movements after reading the "punch word" of a joke. Results are consistent with the psychological reality of some process like frame-shifting, suggesting readers literally revisit aspects of the prior context while apprehending one-line jokes.
doi:10.1515/humor.2006.013 fatcat:fexdpn3r5zeerlcvlgfxnquofi