The role of secondary incongruities in cartoon appreciation

Beatriz Carbajal-Carrera, Olga Sanchez-Castro


Failed humour in conversational exchanges has received increasing attention in humour research (see Bell 2015; Bell & Attardo 2010). However, tensions between what constitutes successful and failed humour have yet to be fully explored outside conversational humour. Drawing on Hay’s (2001) classification of humour stages and using a socio-cognitive approach to pragmatics to examine responses from Spanish L1 and L2 users to differing combinations of structural and content features in cartoons, the present study aims to explore what factors contribute to successful and failed responses to multimodal humour. Previous research has predominantly investigated the role of caricature as one of the prototypical features of cartoons affecting humour communication, suggesting that this feature plays an active role in the recognition of the humoristic genre (Padilla & Gironzetti 2012). Findings from the present study indicate that caricature operates not only in the recognition, but also in the understanding and appreciation stages. In particular, our results point to two other roles of caricature as a secondary incongruity and as a factor that can trigger appreciation through empathy and/or a sense of superiority. Importantly, this investigation indicates that the presence of secondary incongruities can compensate for a partial lack of understanding, highlighting the relevance that this type of incongruity has in humour appreciation.


secondary incongruity, cartoons, contextualization indexes, cognitive scripts, failed humour, empathy, socio-cognitive approach.

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