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Knowledge is organized into mental memory structures called schemas by an individual. When we see or think about something, the pertinent schema is activated, meaning that our body of knowledge on that specific subject is immediately brought to mind. For instance, our bovine schema is activated whenever we see cows in a Far Side cartoon (stage one). But when we realize the cows are in the car while people are in the pasture grazing, we have two mental images in our conscious mind: the image of the cows from our preexisting mental model and the image of the cows from the cartoon (stage two). When we suppress the real-world representation (stage three), we find it amusing to imagine cows driving through a field of grazing people. “I know about cows,” transforms into “Wait, cows should be the ones in the field, not people,” and finally into a sense of humor in an absurd circumstance.
The subjective feeling of humor that results from the resolution of at least two disparate schemas. The second schema is frequently activated at the conclusion, in the punchline, of verbal jokes. We occasionally fail to understand the joke for at least two different reasons. Timing and laugh tracks can help alert the listener that a different representation of the punchline may be possible. The punchline must first establish a conflict with the mental image that the joke has already established. Second, you need to be able to suppress the initial mental image. When jokes reinforce a stereotype that offends us (such as when they are racist, sexist, or ethnic jokes), we may not want to stop the offensive representation. Another example of violence in cartoons is when a coyote is struck by an anvil in a Roadrunner cartoon; this may make the humor invisible to animal lovers.

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