Jokes understanding is an important part of people’s social life, especially in aging. However, little is known about older adults’ humor understanding and the role of the cognitive skills underpinning social communication, mainly pragmatics and theory of mind (ToM). To fill this gap, we created the Phonological and Mental Jokes (PMJ) task, a fine-grained task distinguishing two types of jokes based on the mentalistic load. The PMJ task was administered, together with the Assessment of Pragmatic Abilities and Cognitive Substrates (APACS) test for pragmatics and the Strange Stories for ToM, to 147 older adults (age-range 60–85). Through structural equation modeling (SEM), we analyzed: i) the latent structure of the PMJ task; ii) the relationships between humor comprehension, pragmatics, and ToM, controlling for other background variables (vocabulary, education, and age). Results revealed a two-latent-factor model for the PMJ task, which separated phonological from mental jokes. Furthermore, pragmatic skills predicted humor comprehension irrespective of the type of joke, whereas the relationship between humor understanding and ToM skills was specific, being significant for mental, but not for phonological, jokes. These results suggest that humor understanding is part of the larger pragmatic competence of older adults and that it may additionally tax ToM skills when reasoning about the mental states of the joke’s characters is required. These findings pave the way to a lifespan consideration of humor in social communication and add to the debate over the relationship between pragmatics and ToM, showing the different role of these abilities in humor.

Pragmatics and theory of mind in older adults’ humor comprehension

Ceccato I.
Co-primo
;
2019

Abstract

Jokes understanding is an important part of people’s social life, especially in aging. However, little is known about older adults’ humor understanding and the role of the cognitive skills underpinning social communication, mainly pragmatics and theory of mind (ToM). To fill this gap, we created the Phonological and Mental Jokes (PMJ) task, a fine-grained task distinguishing two types of jokes based on the mentalistic load. The PMJ task was administered, together with the Assessment of Pragmatic Abilities and Cognitive Substrates (APACS) test for pragmatics and the Strange Stories for ToM, to 147 older adults (age-range 60–85). Through structural equation modeling (SEM), we analyzed: i) the latent structure of the PMJ task; ii) the relationships between humor comprehension, pragmatics, and ToM, controlling for other background variables (vocabulary, education, and age). Results revealed a two-latent-factor model for the PMJ task, which separated phonological from mental jokes. Furthermore, pragmatic skills predicted humor comprehension irrespective of the type of joke, whereas the relationship between humor understanding and ToM skills was specific, being significant for mental, but not for phonological, jokes. These results suggest that humor understanding is part of the larger pragmatic competence of older adults and that it may additionally tax ToM skills when reasoning about the mental states of the joke’s characters is required. These findings pave the way to a lifespan consideration of humor in social communication and add to the debate over the relationship between pragmatics and ToM, showing the different role of these abilities in humor.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11564/723091
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