Humor comprehension in healthy people and patients with mental disorders: Cognitive and emotional component

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    The paper describes the results of a comparative analysis of humor comprehension in healthy people (N=39) and patients with mental disorders (N=31): schizophrenia and schizotypal disorders (N=19) and affective disorders (N=12). A set of seven verbal jokes was administered to the participants individually and followed by in-depth semi-structured interview in order to reveal the levels of cognitive and emotional humor comprehension of each joke. The transcribed protocols of the interviews were assessed independently by four experts (psychologists), who ranked the interpretation of each joke in according with five levels of cognitive (1. fragmentary pseudo-comprehension, 2. pseudo-comprehension, 3. diffuse comprehension, 4. incomplete comprehension, 5. complete comprehension) and three levels of emotional (1. lack of emotional contact: a) complete emotional merging with (one of) the joke’s characters; b) absolute inability to establish emotional contact with the joke’s characters, 2. partial identification, 3. voluntarily regulated partial identification) comprehension. Satisfactory level of expert assessments consistency was obtained in both groups of participants, which confirms the suitability of the chosen research methodology for using in both healthy and clinical populations. The results show incomplete humor comprehension to be common among mentally healthy people. At the same time, it is typical for patients with mental disorders to have a significant decrease in both cognitive and emotional components of humor comprehension. We also revealed some differences between the subgroups of schizophrenia and affective disorders. Overall, in the clinical group, correlation between cognitive and emotional components of humor comprehension was lower in comparison with correlation between these components in the controls. We suggest that, in clinical group, the lower correlation may lead to mutual decompensation of cognitive and emotional components while understanding a joke. A promising next step of the study is to conduct a detailed qualitative analysis of the differences of cognitive and emotional humor comprehension and the strategies of jokes’ meanings reconstruction between healthy people and psychiatric patients.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalVoprosy Psychologii
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2018


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