> Science doesn't explore laughter much. Perhaps there is an irony to that
Actually, that isn't entirely true. While it is true that concentrated
psychological research into the area of laughter and humor didn't really
start until the 1960's, there has been quite a bit of study conducted
since then. And of course, this doesn't even count the historical and
sociological analysis of humor.
A search on Google.com for the keywords: 'psychological studies of
laughter and humor' produced about 1400 results. Obviously, each one is
not a peer-reviewed journal article, but the majority of them looked
like they would have something useful to contribute. Although, I will
grant you that humor, laughter and their effects both psychological and
physiologically haven't been studied nearly as much as anger or anxiety.
> It's often a "surprise mechanism" that triggers laughter, not only cruelty
> and oddities.
One of the things that has received a lot of recent attention has been
the primary factors responsible for eliciting a laugh, or feeling of
mirth, when perceiving a specific situation. And the "surprise
mechanism" you mention above seems to be one of the major contributors.
People have a certain expectation, or schema, with which they use to
heuristically predict how a situation should go ("garden pathing" is a
very simplistic example of this). When this schema is violated in a
novel way, this can lead to laughter and our perception that something
humorous just happened.
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