An Essay on Laughter Its Forms, its Causes, its Development and its Value
AN ESSAY ON LAUGHTER
by JAMES SULLY
THE HUMAN MIND: a Text-book of Psychology. 2vols. 8vo, 21s.
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ITS FORMS, ITS CAUSES, ITS DEVELOPMENTAND ITS VALUE
JAMES SULLY, M.A., LL.D.
AUTHOR OF “THE HUMAN MIND,” “STUDIES OFCHILDHOOD,” ETC.
39 PATERNOSTER ROW, LONDON
NEW YORK AND BOMBAY
The present work is, I believe, thefirst attempt to treat on a considerable scale thewhole subject of Laughter, under its various aspects,and in its connections with our serious activities andinterests. As such, it will, I feel sure, lay itselfopen to the criticism that it lacks completeness, or atleast, proportion. A further criticism to which, I feelequally sure, it will expose itself, is that it clearlyreflects the peculiarities of the experience of the writer.The anticipation of this objection does not, however,disturb me. It seems to me to be not only inevitable, butdesirable—at least at the present stage of our knowledge ofthe subject—that one who attempts to understand an impulse,of which the intensities and the forms appear to varygreatly among men, of which the workings are often subtle,and of which the significance is by no means obvious,should, while making full use of others’ impressions, drawlargely on his own experience.
Portions of the volume have already appearedin Reviews. Chapter I. was published (under thetitle “Prolegomena to a Theory of Laughter”) inThe Philosophical Review, 1900; Chapter V., in theRevue Philosophique, 1902; and Chapter VIII., inThe International Monthly, 1901. The parts ofChapters III. and VI. which treat of the psychologyof tickling appeared in the Compte rendu ofthe Fourth International Congress of Psychology(IVme Congrès International de Psychologie), Paris,1901. Some of the ideas in Chapter X. are outlinedin an article on “The Uses of Humour,”which appeared in The National Review, 1897.
Some of my obligations to other writers andworkers have been acknowledged in the volume.For friendly assistance in reading the proofs ofthe work I am greatly indebted to Mr. CarvethRead, Dr. Alexander Hill, Prof. W. P. Ker, Mr.Ling Roth, Dr. W. H. R. Rivers, Miss C. Osborn,and Miss Alice Woods.
VALD’ANNIVIERS, August, 1902.
- CHAPTER I.INTRODUCTORY.
- CHAPTER II.THESMILEANDTHELAUGH.
- Need of studying the bodily process in laughter• 25
- Characteristics of the movements of the smile• 26
- Expressive function of the smile• 27
- Continuity of processes of smiling and laughing• 27
- Characteristics of the movements of laughter• 30
- Concomitant organic changes during laughter• 33
- Physiological benefits of laughing• 34
- Effects of excessive laughter• 37
- The laugh as expression• 39
- Relation of expression to feeling in laughter• 40
- Interactions of joyous feeling and organic concomitants• 44
- Deviations from the normal type of laugh• 48
- CHAPTER III.OCCASIONSANDCAUSESOFLAUGHTER.
- 1. Laughter as provoked by sense-stimulus: tickling• 50
- Ticklish areas• 52
- Characteristics of the sensations of tickling• 53
- Motor reactions provoked by tickling• 56
- How far attributes of sensation determine laughter of tickling• 57
- The mental factor in effect of tickling• 59
- Objective conditions of successful tickling• 60
- Tickling as appealing to a particular mood• 62
- 2. Other quasi-reflex forms of laughter• 64
- 3. Varieties of joyous laughter• 70
- Physiological basis of laughing habit• 80
- 1. Laughter as provoked by sense-stimulus: tickling• 50
- CHAPTER IV.VARIETIESOF THELAUGHABLE.
- The objective reference in laughter• 82
- Universal element in the laughable• 83
- Groups of laughable things• 87
- (1) Novelty and oddity• 87
- (2) Bodily deformities• 88
- (3) Moral deformities and vices• 91
- (4) Breaches of order and rule• 94
- (5) Small misfortunes• 96
- (6) References to the indecent• 98
- (7) Pretences• 101
- (8) Want of knowledge or skill• 102
- (9) Relations of contrariety and incongruity• 107
- (10) Verbal play and witticism• 111
Co-operation of different laughable features• 114
- (11) Manifestations of playfulness in objects• 116
- (12) Spectacle of successful combat• 117
- CHAPTER V.THEORIESOFTHELUDICROUS.
- 1. The Theory of Degradation• 119
- 2. Theory of Contrariety or Incongruity• 125
- Summary of criticism of theories• 135
- Attempts to unify the two principles• 136
- The laughable as failure to comply with a social requirement• 139
- How primitive laughter comes into effect of the ludicrous• 140
- Relation of sudden gladness to release from constraint• 141
- Element of contempt in effect of the ludicrous• 142
- Laughter and the play-mood• 145
- The play-mood in the effects of the ludicrous• 149
- Summary of results of inquiry into theories• 153
- CHAPTER VI.THEORIGINOFLAUGHTER.
- Problem of the origin of laughter in the race• 155
- Supposed rudiments of mirth in animals• 156
- The dog’s manifestations of a sense of fun• 159
- The mirthful displays of the ape• 162
- First appearance of laughter in child: date of the first smile• 164
- Date of the first laugh• 166
- The laugh as following the smile• 168
- Order of the two in the evolution of the race• 170
- Conjecture as to genesis of the human smile• 171
- How the primitive smile may have grown into the laugh• 173
- Problem of the evolution of the laughter of tickling• 176
- Effects of tickling in animals• 177
- Date of first response to tickling in the child• 177
- Tickling as inheritance from remote ancestors• 178
- Value of evolutional theories of tickling• 181
- How laughter may have come into tickling• 183
- CHAPTER VII.DEVELOPMENTOFLAUGHTERDURINGTHEFIRSTTHREEYEARSOFLIFE.
- Problem of the early development of laughter in the individual• 186
- Development of smile and laugh as movements• 188
- The general process of emotional development• 189
- Relation of laughter of joy to that of play• 194
- Development of laughter of joy• 195
- Emergence of laughter of surprise• 197
- First laughter of release from strain• 197
- Crude form of laughter of jubilation• 198
- Development of laughter as accompaniment of play• 198
- Early forms of laughing impishness• 201
- First manifestations of rowdyish laughter• 203
- Germs of roguish laughter• 205
- First crude perceptions of the laughable• 207
- The mirthful greeting of sounds• 209
- Early responses to the funny in the visible world• 212
- First enjoyment of pretences• 214
- Early laughter at the improper• 215
- Dim perceptions of the incongruous and the absurd• 216
- Early sense of verbal fun• 217
- Summary of results• 218
- CHAPTER VIII.THELAUGHTEROFSAVAGES.
- Sources of our knowledge of savage laughter• 220
- Different views of travellers on the subject• 220
- Laughter as a salient characteristic of savages• 223
- Descriptions of their movements of laughter• 227
- Abundance of good spirits• 228
- Laughter as accompaniment of shyness• 228
- Laughter and fondness for teasing• 229
- Rough practical jokes• 230
- The way in which laughter is accepted• 232
- Laughter of superiority and contempt• 233
- Indecent character of jocosity• 234
- Appreciation of the laughably odd• 235
- Ridicule of foreign ways• 237
- Laughter at the doings of the white man• 238
- Laughter of the expert at the ignoramus• 240
- Savage society and the white man’s gaucherie• 241
- Germ of sense of the absurd• 242
- The ridiculing of fellow-tribesmen• 244
- Reciprocal laughter of the men and the women• 245
- Example of dry humour• 246
- Organisation of laughter as entertainment• 247
- Germs of the mimetic art• 247
- Differentiation of professional jesters, etc.• 249
- Amusing songs and stories• 250
- Co-existence of different levels of laughter• 251
- How to manage the savage by laughter• 252
- CHAPTER IX.LAUGHTERINSOCIALEVOLUTION.
- Connection between laughter and social life• 254
- Contagiousness of mirth as social quality• 255
- Social uses of laughter• 256
- Class-differentiation as condition of laughter• 258
- How social grouping widens the field of the laughable• 259
- Utility of reciprocal group-laughter• 261
- Screwing up members of other groups• 261
- Laughter of superiors at inferiors• 263