Amusement Photo courtesy of ShutterstockOpens in new window

Amusement is individualized; what amuses one person may not amuse another.

Amusement is the experiencing of an event or situation as humorous and is typically associated with feeling happiness and pleasure. When amused, a person often laughs.

Amusement as an experience has most often been studied in the broader context of humor.

The study of humor involves investigating not only one’s reaction to an event or situation (amusement) but also the stimulus that led to the feeling of amusement and other circumstances surrounding the humor situation.

Humor expert Rod Martin (2007) has written a book in which he integrates the diverse psychological perspectives on humor.

The book provides overviews of the leading theories on humor, including Freudian, cognitive, and arousal-based theories. Martin also reviews developmental aspects of humor, discussing when amusement begins in children, personality influences on humor, cognitive aspects of humor, humor in social contexts, humor and both mental and physical health, and other topics.

Being amused often involves laughing. Robert Provine’s (2001) research on laughing may provide clues about the experience of amusement. When laughing, an individual starts with a sound, for instance, ha, he, or ho, and nearly always continutes with the same sound, for instance, ha ha ha ha ha but not he ha ha ho he ho he ha.

Each ha, he, or ho lasts about 1/15 of a second, and the period of time between each ha, he, or ho and the next is 1/5 of a second. These time intervals are consistent across people of different ages and backgrounds, which leads Provine to argue that there is a biological basis for laughing in this way.

Laughing is also a type of communication, says Provine. We laugh much more when we are in social situations than when we are alone.

These findings and others could suggest that amusement is part of our biological heritage and that amusement serves a social function. However, some research fails to support the idea that laughter and amusement must be connected.

For instance, in other studies conducted by Provine (2001), he and his research students found that people laugh more when they talk than when they listen to others, and also, they laugh the most when they say things that appear not to be funny. For instance, people laugh frequently when they say very ordinary things, such as, “I’ll see you tomorrow. Ha ha ha!” or “OK, let’s go! Ha ha ha!”

Research on amusement and the closely related broader topic of humor is ongoing. Much about these topics is still basically unknown such as why different people have such different senses of humor.

See also:
  1. Martin, R.A. (2007). The psychology of humor: An integrative approach. San Diego, CA: Elsevier.
  2. Provine, R.R. (2001). Laughter: A scientific investigation. New York: Penguin Books.