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Riggall, R.M. (1924). General: J. C. Gregory. The Nature of Laughter. Psyche, 1923, Vol. IV, p. 150.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 5:206.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: General: J. C. Gregory. The Nature of Laughter. Psyche, 1923, Vol. IV, p. 150.

(1924). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 5:206

General: J. C. Gregory. The Nature of Laughter. Psyche, 1923, Vol. IV, p. 150.

Robert M. Riggall

The author, showing that anger in its aggressive poise intimates its connection with an instinctive action of attack, points out that the opposite occurs in laughter, which arises in a situation of relief. Purely comic laughter is differentiated from the sympathetic and humorous varieties. Coleridge suggested that laughter is never anti-sympathetic and Eastman thought that whenever unsympathetic elements appear, they are pollutions and not parts of laughter. McDougall is more restrictive in defining laughter as an instinct accompanied by the specific emotional excitement of amusement. The author rejects the mildly monistic theory of Eastman and the rigidly monistic theory of McDougall; he accepts a freely pluralistic theory and believes that laughter contains a rich variety of emotions or feelings. Laughter has been humanized and has responded to the advance of civilized sympathy by becoming more sympathetic and less cruel. In commenting on McDougall's theory of laughter as a correction for an excess of sympathy, Gregory thinks that human history does not suggest a need for a special instinctive control of sympathy, but that it senses a humanization of laughter. Relief is probably the most original emotion of laughter and explains both its pervasion by sympathy in humour and its disciplinary rôle in ridicule. The laugh occurs in its most purely physical situation in laughter of sheer relief, as when a danger is suddenly removed. Because the two sides of a situation of relief com pose an incongruity, the sense of the ludicrous appears. Addison states that laughter, while it lasts, slackens and unbraces the mind and weakens the faculties. Triumphant laughter, although often cruel, may contain an opportunity for sympathy. Anti-sympathetic impulses are not prominent in an atmosphere of relaxation or relief. Wit is decisive, illuminating expression of truth; it is not itself laughable, but it provides laughter with its situation of relief and with incongruities. Laughter is the elater of situations of relief, it breaks off action or thought, and extracts a comic recompense from the break. Laughter, which is always protean, may rise nobly against a background of seriousness or ignobly as 'fun in Bagdad'.

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Article Citation

Riggall, R.M. (1924). General. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 5:206

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