Humor Happens!
video sentiment analysis

Humor Happens!

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EmotionTrac’s Director of Insights Studies the Sentimental Science Behind Laughter

The Webster dictionary defines laughter as, “...the enactment of humor, turning a perception into an action.”

There are a plethora of humor types that make us crack-up, from slapstick comedy to dirty jokes to one-liners. Interestingly, Humor Scientists* agree that laughing is a wholly human reaction to humor, and that, wait for it, laughing at others’ misfortune is a natural construct. Specifically, this type of humor is referred to as "schadenfreude." It literally means to “to laugh at someone's misfortune.”

In their on-going interest to study what makes people laugh, Humor Scientists prefer to employ testing modalities that capture the intensity of the emotional state, otherwise known as emotional arousal. This is the science behind EmotionTrac. We report on seven types of emotional arousal.

Clients often ask us if we can measure humor using the EmotionTrac tool and the answer is YES WE CAN! In fact, according to Robert Plutchnik’s research on Dyadic Emotional Sentiment, the construct of “humor” is the derivative of the combined measures of Joy + Surprise. He also posits that based on his observations, “that laughter is a natural bodily artifact resulting from engaging in something that brings joy to the viewer/reader.” He also noted that adding a sprinkle of surprise creates the phenomenon of laughter.

We tested this theory last month by exposing 154 panelists to a short Saturday Night Live skit, a comedic parody on Personal Injury Lawyers called “Broderick and Ganz.”

We captured facially coded emotional reactions frame by frame, joke by joke, and discovered what a general audience thought was really funny, and what made them laugh.

The chart below showcases the reactions of our panelists to the SNL skit.

Joy Surprise Trends

What can EmotionTrac say about the skit’s inherent humor? It works! The Joy metric outscores the other six basic emotions, suggesting that the viewer takeaway was highly resonant. “Schadenfreude” is in full play here - as the humor arc directly relates to one man’s sour experience in contrast to the other “testimonials,” which tout how well the firm went to bat for them.

Today, marketers have a wide range of means in reaching and communicating with their audiences, however, there is a tendency for consumers to be over-exposed to audio/video cues. That makes for a poor testing environment as well, as consumers are likely to shut out what they have already heard. In contrast, EmotionTrac allows you to overcome this challenge since our tool captures instant, real-life, unbiased genuine facial reactions to your content using an incentivized mobile gaming platform.

  • Ruch, W. & Heintz, S. (2014). Test measurements of humor. In S. Attardo (Ed.), Encyclopedia of humor studies (pp. 759-761). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
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