Social Question

MrsDufresne's avatar

How difficult is it to discern someone's sense of humor through a typed sentence?

Asked by MrsDufresne (3547points) March 8th, 2010

It seems like it can be really difficult to discern humor when you can not see the person’s facial expression and/or tone of voice when communicating. How do you determine when someone [you don’t know the personality of] is being humorous through typed text?

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12 Answers

wundayatta's avatar

You don’t, really. The best you can do is make an educated guess. If something seems absurd enough or offbeat enough or somehow wrong, then it might be humor. But you can go wrong on this—I did just recently. I couldn’t believe someone wasn’t making a joke, but it turned out they were serious. Go figure.

Your_Majesty's avatar

If it could really make you laugh then it’s a humor. I know some people who humorous. I can easily know as they tend to do it and appear more often to do so. People usually brand humor with ‘LOL’.

escapedone7's avatar

Some of my favorite books are humorous ones. Have you read the Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich? They are all a riot! I also love humor columns like Dave Barry. I think Bill Cosby’s books made me laugh until I cried.

In a chat situation, certain types of humor can sometimes go over my head. Sarcasm, specifically. I read it in my head without the usual vocal inflections that come with sarcasm, and sometimes I just take everything literally.

For example someone might say “Yeah, that’s really going to work.” They might mean it in a sarcastic way. If I could hear their voice, see them rolling their eyes, I would see it as sarcasm. Reading it in print in my head I hear “Yeah! That is really going to work!”

Arisztid's avatar

I will just ask someone if I am not sure. I have a pretty good rate of humor identification. It is better if I know the person.

Here is what I do when I joke. If someone has a dry sense of humor it is more difficult to ascertain. I vary from obvious in my humor to dry as the desert tundra. At my driest, only people who know me can tell that I am making a funny.

Every now and then use HTML to identify that I am cracking wise for the reading public because some people can mistake my humor for, well, lots of other things. A couple of examples: <sarcasm> joke </sarcasm>, <humor=“dry”> joke </humor>, (if someone is really dense) <humor=“slapstick”> joke </humor>.

So far HTML tag identification has not been required on Fluther because most Flutherites can identify humor when presented to them. I am certain I shall encounter times when such tags speed along the humor identification process here as well.

talljasperman's avatar

I’m afriad that sometimes they will have to tell you….I’m still wondering if our founder(Andrew) was really I.P. blocked earlier today

msbauer's avatar

There’s actually psychological research out there on this. I just read an article specifically on how emoticons can change the reader’s interpretation of an electronic message. I think this research applies to your situation because participants in the study responded to these messages as if they came from a stranger.

SKIP TO THE BOTTOM OF THIS MESSAGE IF YOU’D PREFER THE ABRIDGED VERSION OF MY ANSWER

The researchers showed participants the following electronic message stimuli and asked them to respond to how emotionally positive/negative/ambiguous they thought they were:
– That econ class you asked me about, it’s a joy. I wish all my classes were just like it. :-)
– That econ class you asked me about, it’s a joy. I wish all my classes were just like it. :-(
– That econ class you asked me about, it’s a joy. I wish all my classes were just like it. ;-)
– That econ class you asked me about, it’s a joy. I wish all my classes were just like it.
– That econ class you asked me about, it’s hell. I never want another class like it. :-)
– That econ class you asked me about, it’s hell. I never want another class like it. :-(
– That econ class you asked me about, it’s hell. I never want another class like it. ;-)
– That econ class you asked me about, it’s hell. I never want another class like it.

These are the hypotheses they confirmed:
– Hypothesis 1: Alterations in the valence of verbal messages account for greater variance in the interpretation of messages than do emoticons…in other words, emoticons come second to the emotional tone created by the actual words of the message
– Hypothesis 2a: A smile emoticon, coupled with a positive verbal message, conveys greater positivity than a positive verbal message alone.
– Hypothesis 3a: A smile emoticon, coupled with a negative verbal message, is more ambiguous than a negative “pure message” (a negative verbal message alone or with a frown emoticon) or a positive “pure message” (a positive verbal message alone or with a smile emoticon).
– Hypothesis 4b: A frown emoticon, coupled with a positive verbal message, conveys less positivity than a positive “pure message” and less negativity than a negative “pure message.”
– Hypothesis 6b: A frown emoticon, coupled with a positive verbal message, conveys as much negativity as a negative “pure message” and more negativity than a positive “pure message.”

Source: Walther, J. B., & D’Addario, K. P. (2001). The impacts of emoticons on message interpretation in computer-mediated communication. Social Science Computer Review, 19, 324–347. doi: 10.1177/089443930101900307

…In short, the emotional tone (humorous or otherwise) set by the actual words in the message matter the most, above and beyond any emoticons. However, strangely, a frown emoticon can cause a happy message to be seen as MORE negative than a negative message alone or even a negative message with a frown emoticon. Weird!

Soooo…I guess my question is, did they use an emoticon?

talljasperman's avatar

@msbauer I love your Avatar

gailcalled's avatar

Some people here regularly make me laugh by design. They are funny. And they don’t need special and unnecessary punctuation to tickle me, Elmo.

Milo, being slow-witted, needs the ~ and emoticons.

msbauer's avatar

yes but @gailcalled, can you not comprehend the intense level of POSITIVITY you could invoke merely by inserting 3 characters: a colon, a dash, and a closed parenthese?!

msbauer's avatar

@fluther, thanks for existing. i just discovered you a few hours ago but i can already see that you’re going to be a major time-suck much to the detriment of sucessfully completing my senior thesis and graduating.

gailcalled's avatar

@msbauer : Write your thesis on the sociology of a fully developed on-line community and how it got that way.

(And this…:-) ....only irritates me, thereby preventing me from reading the attached text.

Look at the Greek dramatists. They did just fine with plain, old λόγια.

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