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Dark Humour

And its use in advertising: Perceptions of generation Y

Written by Lisa Andersson, Ida Rosén

Paper category

Master Thesis


Business Administration>Marketing & Sales




Master Thesis: Although dark humor theory has received widespread attention in previous studies, there are still many controversies surrounding dark humorous advertising. Researchers find it difficult to agree on a general definition of what dark humor is and the mechanism that characterizes its construction. Past attempts to define dark humor did not explain all the different types, and have focused on a single theory without explaining other characteristics. The Oxford Dictionary (2013) defines dark humor as "interesting or comical qualities, especially expressed in literary speeches." Nonetheless, Weinberg and Gullas argued that “there is no universally accepted definition of dark humor” (1992, p. 49). Although there is no fully integrated or universally accepted definition of dark humor, it is recommended to use three broad mechanisms to manage or drive its structure (Cho, 1995; Spotts, Weinberger, and Parsons, 1997; Gulas et al., 1996). The labels of these dark humor mechanisms may vary from researcher to researcher, but they usually contain the same content and are used to explain dark humor motives between individuals. 2.4.1 Dark humor Mechanism The first mechanism, emotion, is characterized by the release of energy and happiness that violates social standards. This is related to Freud's mitigation theory, in which dark humor is considered a healthy adaptive behavior (Spotts et al., 1997). The emotional mechanism is further thought to be related to the tension release theory and arousal theory, both of which are accompanied by the release of initial tension or arousal (Spotts et al., 1997). These theories mainly study the physiological characteristics of dark humor by proposing that the optimal arousal level or the driving force to reach a steady state is also the driving force of dark humor (Cho, 1995). Second, the interpersonal mechanism describes dark humor by connecting society and interpersonal communication. The context in which it happened (Cho, 1995). Superiority theory, in which jokes are usually used to outperform others, is considered one of the earliest dark humor theories (Spotts et al., 1997). This refers to a biased comparison with others in order to satisfy one's own self-defense needs (Cho, 1995). In addition, depreciation and tendency theories are seen as additional elements that contribute to this dark humorous effect. The depreciation theory shows that dark humor is a socially justified offensive or hostile structure that can be exposed to others without any sense of guilt, while the personality theory emphasizes that group intimacy and shared values are unique dimensions of perceiving dark humor ( Cho, 1995). The last is the cognitive mechanism, which is related to the structure of information. This mechanism is governed by the theory of incongruity, in which accidents or inconsistencies are considered to be elements of dark humor (Spotts et al., 1997). 2.4.2 Speck's dark humor classification Speck (1991) uses these mechanisms and calls them processes to establish a dark humor classification within an empirical framework. These processes include arousing safety, incoordination, and derogation, which can be understood by their names to be related to the emotions, interpersonal relationships, and cognitive mechanisms described earlier. In addition, five different types of dark humor have been identified, each of which represents a different combination of basic dark humorous processes. Therefore, Speck (1991) proposed that dark humor is a multi-dimensional structure, in which each type is aimed at different communication effects. The content of each of these dark humor types will be briefly described below. 1. Dark humor-sarcasm, perceptual displacement and exaggeration associated with inconsistent resolution. Practical examples might be how comedians like Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler, or Jim Carrey use this dark humor in their roles. 2. Sentimental and dark humorous-the ending of empathy, warmth and happiness related to awakening safety. Tele 2’s TV commercial about Francis the Sheep can be linked to this dark humor by eliciting a feeling of warmth and sympathy among the audience. 3. Satire-The ridicule and attack associated with dark humorous depreciation, exaggeration, and satire rely on inconsistent solutions. It usually involves a target that is ridiculed rather than ridiculed. Adult animated sitcoms, such as "South Park" or "Spoof House", often rely on this kind of ridicule and dark humor for exposed subjects. 4. Sentimental comedy—emotional pleasure related to awakening safety and cognitive pleasure related to incoordination resolution. It also involves irony rather than warm dark humor, which is characteristic of sentimental dark humor. The satirical appearance often used by the characters in ICA TV commercials can be used to illustrate sentimental comedies. 5. Full comedy—Unlike sentimental comedy, full comedy contains offensiveness associated with dark humorous depreciation. Unlike irony, it uses positive emotions related to awakening safety to offset negative effects. Therefore, the complete comedy provides a combination of aggressive and ironic elements, but also has a positive twist. One example is the comedian Bill Burr, who uses this type of dark humor by joking about tragic events. 2.4.3 Stern's classification of dark humor Stern (1996) believes that many previous researchers defined this phenomenon as "dark humor", which caused the term to confuse the form of advertising stimulus with the consumer's response. Therefore, the same author suggested to redefine the definition and change the term from "dark humor" to "comedy". In this regard, the terms "comedy", "comedy" or "comedy" refer to stimuli, while the terms "laugh", "big laugh" or "ridiculous" refer to consumer reactions. Read Less