Posts tagged humor
Fascinating New Humor Study: Unsupervised Funniness Detection in the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest

This study, Humor In Collective Discourse: Unsupervised Funniness Detection in the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest, from Cornell University compares a dozen automatic methods for selecting the funniest caption. They utilize Amazon Mechanical Turks to analyze New Yorker cartoons. Their findings show that "negative sentiment, human-centeredness, and lexical centrality most strongly match the funniest captions, followed by positive sentiment."

The study also offers the public access to 50 New Yorker cartoons as well as thousands of past caption entries. 

Sophie Scott on The Social Life of Laughter

Sophie Scott is the group leader of the speech communication neuroscience group at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London. She recently gave a TED talk on laughter and frequently contributes to the Guardian. Check out her article entitled Why Do People Laugh? You asked Google– and here's the answer.

Scott states, "It’s now becoming clear that though laughter is an essential social sign of affection and affiliation, it may be even more important than that. Research into couples has shown that people who deal with unpleasant, stressful situations with positive emotions like laughter not only feel immediately better, they are also happier in their relationships and stay together for longer. Laughter is a phenomenally useful way for people to regulate their emotions together – and feel better together. In this context, jokes and humour may form incredibly useful reasons to laugh together."

The following image is from her study The Social Life of Laughter

According to the study: Upper panel shows oscillograms for speech and laughter, middle panel shows spectrograms for laughter and speech, lower panel shows chest expansion dynamics for metabolic breathing, laughing and speaking. The time scale on the x axis is the same for each (breathing, laughing and speaking). Both speaking and laughing are distinctly different from metabolic breathing, in terms of chest wall movements. Laughter is characterized by very rapid contractions of the intercostal muscles, resulting in large exhalations followed by individual bursts of laughter: the spectral modulation of laughter by supra-larangeal structures is minimal. Speech shows a fine pattern of intercostal muscle movements, which are used to maintain constant sub-glottal pressure at the larynx and to provide pitch and rhythm to the speech. Unlike laughter, speech also shows considerable spectral complexity reflecting movements of the supra-laryngeal articulators.

Obstacles In The Way Of AI Getting An Uncanny Sense Of Humor
There’s another stumbling block for computer-generated humor: Computers excel in working with simple, fixed data sets. It’s why most joke-generating programs have so far focused on puns and other wordplay, since finite word lists and specific definitions are easy for computers to scan and parse. But most comedy trades in concepts that aren’t simple or fixed at all. The best comedy mines a wide world of attitudes, assumptions, morals, and taboos, most of which aren’t even mentioned in the joke, just subtly hinted at. So if we aim to have computers truly “get” jokes—much less to come up with their own and know when and to whom to tell them—we’re essentially going to have upload into them all of humanity. Plus, whether you’re partial to the incongruity theory, the benign violation theory, or some other concept about what makes things funny, it seems pretty clear that good comedy breaks the rules and revels in the peculiar. And that’s exactly the sort of stuff computer programs aren’t very good at.

This excerpt is from an article in Wired entitled It’s Comedian vs. Computer in a Battle for Humor Supremacy. The article also includes images of comics produced by Manatee, Northwestern's joke-telling computer, which no longer seems to be live. Learn more about it here.

One of Manatee's comic humor attempts mentioned in the Wired article. Photo by  Allen .

One of Manatee's comic humor attempts mentioned in the Wired article. Photo by Allen.