3rd International Summer School and Symposium


Humour and Laughter: Theory, Research and Applications

at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, 15-20 September, 2003

Teaching faculty

  • Lydia Amir, Tel Aviv University, Israel
  • Christie Davies, University of Reading, UK
  • Rüdiger Hasenöhrl, University of Hertfortshire, UK
  • Graeme Ritchie, University of Edinburgh, Scotland
  • Willibald Ruch, University of Zurich, Switzerland

and the winner of the "emerging scholar award"

  • Christian "Kiki" Hempelmann, Purdue University, USA


About the Speakers

Lydia B. Amir is a professor of philosophy, and head of Humanistic Studies at The School of Media Studies, The College of Management in Tel-Aviv, Israel. Her interest in humor began twenty years ago, when she developed a philosophical approach to humor titled: "Humor as a Worldview". Her first lecture about it was at the International Humor Tel-Aviv Conference in 1984 and the book she is currently writing about it is called Tragic Laughter, Comic Vision. During her doctoral studies she devised a system for developing humor in order to enable more people to implement the approach she is proposing. For the last twenty years, she taught both her "humor as a worldview" and the system she found for developing humor, in various seminars for people from different disciplines and for students in academic courses. For example, she was the first to teach in Israel a course on Humor in Management in Departments of Management at the University level (1988-1993). Her interest in humor blends with her general philosophic work, which focuses on non-philosophers' capacity of implementing philosophical ideals, and on the possible dialogue between psychology and philosophy. Therefore, she has written a book on "Philosophy as Redemption: Comparing Spinoza and Nietzsche", currently under review by Nijhoff Press. Apart from articles on humor she has published many articles on philosophy and everyday life. In order to be in touch with non-philosophers, she established apart form her academic carrer a private philosophical consultation office, where she offers philosophical and ethical services to individuals, groups and organizations.

Christie Davies MA PhD (Cambridge) is an Em. Professor of the University of Reading. He is the author of many books and articles about humour including Ethnic Humor around the World; a comparative analysis 1990 and 1997, Jokes and their Relation to Society 1998, and The Mirth of Nations 2002. He has been a visiting lecturer in India, and the United States, taught in Australia and lectured on humour at Summer Schools in the Czech Republic, Poland and Italy.

Rüdiger Hasenöhrl is a Senior Lecturer in Biological Psychology at the Psychology Department of the University of Hertfordshire. He has recently moved to the Department from the University of Düsseldorf (Germany), where he worked at the Institute of Physiological Psychology. He received his PhD in 1992 and, after Habilitation in 2000, awarded the Venia legendi for Psychology by the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences at the University of Düsseldorf. Dr Hasenöhrl is interested in the relationship between brain structure/function and psychological variables, such as learning, memory and reinforcement. His present research is devoted to the analysis of the neuroanatomical and neurochemical mechanisms of emotional behaviours.

Graeme Ritchie studied pure mathematics at the University of Dundee and theoretical linguistics at the University of Essex before obtaining his PhD (in computational linguistics) from the University of Edinburgh in 1977. Since 1983 he has been a member of academic staff at the University of Edinburgh, where he is currently a senior lecturer in the Division of Informatics. He has worked in artificial intelligence and natural language processing since 1973, publishing two books and over fifty papers. His research into humour began in 1993 with the supervision of a pioneering doctoral thesis on computational humour. Since then, he has been developing a rigorous framework for analysing verbally expressed humour, and this will be the subject of a book to be published by Routledge in October 2003. During academic year 2001-2002, he held a Leverhulme Research Fellowship on "Linguistic Modelling of Humour".

Willibald Ruch, 2002 president of the International Society of Humour Studies (ISHS), recently moved from Queens University Belfast, UK to the Department of Psychology at Zurich University, Switzerland. He received his PhD from the University of Graz, Austria in 1980 and later worked at the University of Düsseldorf, in Germany. Between 1992 and 1998 he held a Heisenberg-fellowship awarded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft-DFG (German Research Foundation) which he devoted to the study of the sense of humour. The psychology of humour, laughter and cheerfulness has been a focal point throughout his career and he has authored about 50 journal articles and book chapters on the subject and constructed several humour tests. Recently he has been studying humor from a perspective of positive psychology. He is a member of the editorial board of HUMOR--International Journal of Humor Research, co-editor of the humor research monograph series, and initiator of the humor pod in the positive psychology network. He edited and contributed several chapters to "The Sense of Humour: Explorations of a personality characteristic.". A recent publication is the chapter on humor for the VIA Classification of Strengths Manual. Throughout his work his aim has been to weave humour with adjacent fields of inquiry while his interest in humour and laughter focus primarily on the definition and measurement of the sense of humour, deriving and validating a taxonomy of jokes and cartoons, the role of emotion, mood temperament in humour, the study of the facial expression in smiling and laughter, and more recently, the relationship between humour, laughter and health. He is webmaster of the ISHS-website and of the Humor Research website.

Faculty member: winner of the emerging scholar award 2003

Christian F. Hempelmann recently graduated from Purdue University with a Ph.D. in linguistics, specializing in humor studies and computational linguistics. His dissertation, entitled "Paronomasic Puns: Target Recoverability towards Automatic Generation," was supervised by Victor Raskin. He has been working in linguistic humor studies since 1996, received an M.A. in Linguistics from the University of Hannover, Germany, in1998 with a thesis on "Linguistic Approaches to Humor: The General Theory of Verbal Humor in Performance" supervised by Rainer Schulze, and another M.A. in English from Youngstown State University in 2000 with a thesis on "Incongruity and Resolution of Humorous Narratives-Linguistic Humor Theory and the Medieval Bawdry of Rabelais, Boccaccio, and Chaucer" supervised by Salvatore Attardo. Apart from linguistic humor studies, his research interests include ontological semantics, historical linguistics, and phonology. He won the 2003 ISHS emerging scholar award in Chicago.

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Quality control

Lectures utilize modern electronic technology (usually a PowerPoint presentation) and are accompanied by handouts given to participants at the beginning of each lecture. At the end of the course delegates will be asked for their comments about the course as a whole together with feedback concerning the individual contributions from each lecturer.

Provisional Timetable

(Buccleuch Place)

(Appleton Tower)

(Appleton Tower)

(Appleton Tower)
(Appleton Tower)
(Buccleuch Place)



Introduction to humour research: Taxonomic models of humour (WR)

The methodology of analysing verbally expressed humour (GR)
The humour response: Perception, cognition, emotion? (WR)
The neurobiology of humour and laughter-I (RH)
Computational modelling of verbal humour (GR)
Constructing state and trait questionnaires of humour: The STCI (WR)

Short history of humour and laughter: Antiquity and middle ages (LA)

 An Introduction to the GTVH (KH)
Playing with aggression (CD)
The neurobiology of humour and laughter-II (RH)
Humour, laughter and the brain-I (RH)
Genetics of humour and laughter (WR)

Short history of humour and laughter: Modern and post modern Times (LA)

Puns: A review (KH)
Disaster jokes in an electronic world (CD
Incongruity-resolution and forced reinterpretation (GR)
Humour, laughter and the brain-II (RH)
What are the components of a joke? (GR)




The dog that did not bark in the night: how to study humour comparatively (CD)

Humour and western religions: Past and present (LA)
Humour, laughter and wisdom (LA)
Making the frightful funny: appalling acts & sentiments in the works of Hasek, Kipling, Waugh & Wells (CD)

Explaining ethnic jokes (CD)

Humour east and west: A comparison (LA)
Humour as a worldview (Theory) (LA)
Humour as a worldview (Practice) (LA)

Meet the lecturers

Discussion (WR)
Meet the lecturers
Wrapping up and where to go from here?

Note. Contents and timetable may differ from what is given.