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  • 1 Center for Behavior, Evolution, and Culture, Department of Anthropology, UCLA, Los Angeles, USA
  • 2 FPR-UCLA Center for Culture, Brain, and Development, Los Angeles, USA
  • 3 Center for Behavior, Evolution, and Culture, Department of Anthropology, UCLA, 341 Haines Hall, Box 951553, Los Angeles, CA, 90095-1553, USA
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Abstract

We propose that intentionally produced humor is a form of communication that evolved to broadcast information about the self and to obtain information about others by honestly signaling the fact of shared common knowledge. According to this model, humorous utterances and acts are encrypted in the sense that what makes the joke funny is not merely its surface content, but a relationship between the surface content and one or more unstated implicatures which are known by both the sender and the receiver. It is the non-random nature of the match between this unstated knowledge and the surface content which provides evidence that the producer possesses that knowledge, and that those who appreciate the joke do as well, thus rendering humor a means of assessing shared underlying knowledge, attitudes, and preferences. We present evidence from two experimental studies of humor evaluation in support of the encryption theory.

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