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The Humor Quotient Newsletter

Vol. 11, No. 6 December 2009 Winona, MN


Complexities of ELBVHT Analysis within an Industry Study


In HQN 11.4, Robin Jaeckle Grawe introduced humor discoveries using the ELBVHT (the Expanded Langer-Bergson Vitalist Humor Test.)  The original LBVHT has been repeatedly discussed in HQN.  Both the ELBVHT and the LBVHT test four sub-forms (Tenacity, Potential, Creativity, and Performance) of two Vitalist voices, the Langerian and the Bergsonian.  Langerian humor laughs with extraordinary life.  Bergsonian humor laughs at lapses which can be seen as threats to the life force in its never-ending battle with death.


The LBVHT has twelve joke pairs, each pair a representative Langerian joke against its sub-form Bergsonian counterpart (thus a Langerian Tenacity joke, for example, pitted against a Bergsonian Tenacity joke—notationally, T+ pitted against T-)


Scores on the LBVHT can thus be seen as a direct measure of preference either for the Langerian or the Bergsonian version of each of the sub-forms.  We can total the number of Langerian or Bergsonian choices to get an overall Vitalist Index with extremes of Bergsonian or Langerian preference, (notationally the sum of T+, Po+, C+, and Pe+.  There is a mirror-image which can be compiled from the Bergsonian sub-scores.)





 In previous HQN’s, reports on the LBVHT have shown that 1) overall Langer-Bergson Vitalist score, 2) analytic sub-scores (for example, the total number of Langerian Tenacity preferences chosen), and 3) synthetic sub-scores (combinations of two analytic sub-scores, which we consider “humor personalities”) have been shown to have high-confidence relationships to other aspects of life.


The limitation of the LBVHT is, however, that all of its scoring is of head-to-head preferences between Langerian and Bergsonian voices of the same sub-form.


The ELBVHT tries to increase the power of the analysis by treating the LBVHT as Part I of a two-part test.  The second half, again twelve questions in length, pits, say, the Langerian Tenacity sub-form against each of the other three Langerian sub-forms (notationally T+ pitted for example against  Po+, C+, and Pe+) and on the Bergsonian side, say, Bergsonian Creativity (C-) against  T-, Po-, and Pe-.


Enlargement of the LBVHT in this way also turns it from a simple test to a complex test, the two halves asking rather different preference questions.  This issue of HQN investigates some of those different preference questions and the statistical tests used to answer them using as illustration an industry humor study.


The Illustrative Framework: Care Providers Data


 In the fall of 2008, the Institute for Travesty, Comedy, and Humor Studies (ITCHS) was invited to present on its then-current findings in the elder-care industry to the Care Providers Convention in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  ITCHS is thankful to Care Providers and better than 100 seminar participants for their taking the ELBVHT and associated side-tests as part of the learning process of the seminar.


Care Providers participants are professionals in the elder-care industry.  In their home institutions, they act as specialized team members representing trained skill sets.  Thus, participants were from several educational levels, a number having post-bachelor education, many having bachelor-level certification, some having 2-year licensure, and four having high school education, for a total of 93 useable responses.  Participants also indicated whether their work was as nurses, social workers, activity directors, administrators, pastors, or others.  Participants also provided their gender, a decadal indication of their ages, and questionnaire responses on humor attitudes.




As with all ITCHS testing programs, we are indebted to Care Providers and to individual respondents.  As we tell all of them directly, they are “paying forward,” learning what previous ITCHS associates have taught through their participation and laying the foundation for later associates to learn from their present participation.


The age spread of participants went from 18 participants in their twenties, dipping to 10 in their ‘30’s, reaching a high of 33 in their 50’s, and only 5 in their sixties.


Predictably there were many more women than men, of whom there were 15.


Also predictably, the biggest occupational sub-group were professionals in activity and therapeutic recreation. 


Side Tests for Care Providers


Two side tests were used in this experiment.  The first was a test of projected retirement hobbies, which we have previously used with the Humor Quotient Test (HQT) and which is described in HQN 11:4.


The second was a “Christmas Special.”  Nine movies were listed as classic examples of television Christmas specials and participants were asked to indicate their three favorites.

The choices included:

A Christmas Carol                                          A Charlie Brown Christmas

The Grinch Who Stole Christmas                   Mary Poppins

Miracle on 34th Street                                     The Sound of Music

White Christmas                                              Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

                                                    It’s a Wonderful Life





It was recognized that some of these have been remade, sometimes more than once.  No particular production was listed in the question.


Complex Uses of ELBVHT Respondent Data: Test for Over-all Vitalism


The fact of two distinct halves of the ELBVHT allows the one test to be used toward a number of somewhat disparate measurements.


When ITCHS began testing with the LBVHT, it would have been more than sufficient to establish that empirically Langerian and Bergsonian forms could be distinguished and could be variously preferred.


This kind of evidence can still be produced using the ELBVHT, simply by using only Part I data.  In earlier testing, it was shown that there is an overall bias for respondents to chose Bergsonian over Langerian forms.  The data from Care Providers supports that earlier finding: an unbiased center of the Vitalist Index is 12, while the 93 Care Provider respondents averaged 11.435.


Thus, in head-to-head preference testing, there seems either to be a small bias in the quality of comics chosen or else there is a small bias in individuals to prefer Bergsonian to Langerian forms of humor.  Given the critical tradition which has often disregarded Langer and somewhat lionized Bergson, we are somewhat surprised not to find a much more substantial bias in empirical testing in favor of the Bergsonian.


We can move from there to more specialized questions, like whether men and women differ widely in Langer-Bergson preference.  The 15 male respondents averaged 11.5333, slightly more Langerian than the average for all participants.





Since all the questions in Part II pit Langerian sub-forms against one another and Bergsonian sub-forms against one another, no information on overall vitalism can be drawn from Part II of the test.


Sample Result of Side-test Correlation


For the Christmas Special Movie Side Test, seven respondents chose Mary Poppins among their three favorite Christmas specials.  All seven of these Mary Poppins responses were of respondents who scored 12 or 13 on the Vitalist Index.  The Vitalist Index range of all participants was 8 to 15.


That Mary Poppins will be chosen in groups like our Care Providers more by respondents who score at or above the middle (that is, Langerian) of the Vitalist Index (in other words at or above 12 ) produced a z =2.61 on the Difference of Proportion Test, p<.01.


Interestingly, the other movie starring Julie Andrews, The Sound of Music, had a strong negative (Bergsonian)  regression slope compared to the Vitalist Index score of each participant. Let me briefly suggest a rationale which could be much expanded for such contrasting scores.


“Mary Poppins” as a title may be a play on “Mary Pops In,” a popularized sense of earthly visitations by St. Mary.  Even without that clue, Mary Poppins is the story of the supernatural intervention of a woman named Mary who appears when there is great need and who ascends into the heavens when the danger has been overcome.  She is recognized as a familiar by Bert, a talented—and extremely dirty – irrepressibly happy chimney sweep, who often lends his talents to Mary’s efforts. 


Mary and Bert, in short, with irrepressible energy, creativity, and talent are evidently in the business of redeeming irremediable situations.  If Langerian Vitalism is the vital laughter with the extraordinarily alive and alive-making, there will be great opportunity to respond to the Langerian Vitalist humor in Mary Poppins.




On the other hand, we have The Sound of Music.  Julie Andrews twirling in circles as the movie opens, her love for the children, and the gift of music she brings all suggest Langerian Vitalism—and thus would seem to work against the Bergsonian correlation already alluded to for Care Providers.


However, a deeper reading perhaps recognizes that in her mountain dancing, Maria is being a very poor nun-in-training—prompting a song by nuns about what to do about Maria!  Maria is in fact too in love with life to be an orderly nun and is laughable in her failures to be the nun she wants to be.  Similarly, the man she will meet, Captain von Trapp, is laughable in his inabilities to be the father he wants to be, symbolized most poignantly in his pathetic boat whistle.  Austria is darkly laughable in its inability to avoid the seduction of Nazism, the Nazis are of course laughable in their mechanically- encrusted-upon-the-living “Heil, Hitlers,” Max is mechanical in sponging off the rich and looking out for number one, the baroness is too dependent upon her money and on her Machiavellian brain—too mechanically both of these—to be the woman truly in love she might die to be.  And Lisel is after all only sixteen going on seventeen, enormously alive, but needing at least a year or two to perform with grace and maturity as a loving adult.


Thus, perhaps, those who appreciate the ability to laugh against the inadequate and the not-quite-right which endangers us all will more fully appreciate Rogers and Hammerstein’s classic.


Test for Specific Sub-form Preference


Vitalist Index correlations only use Part I of the ELBVHTBoth halves of the ELBVHT can be used to determine which side test variables do or don’t correlate to specific sub-form preferences for Langerian Tenacity, Bergsonian Potential or the like.





In Part I, Langerian Tenacity is pitted three times against Bergsonian Tenacity.  In Part II, Langerian Tenacity is pitted three times against other Langerian sub-forms.  Thus, a respondent can make from 0 to 6 Langerian Tenacity preference decisions. 


It is very important to notice that in Part I, a vote for Langerian Tenacity is equally a vote against Bergsonian Tenacity, and so for each of the four Vitalist sub-types.  Therefore, Langerian and Bergsonian scores for Part I are mirror images of each other.  This is not the case once Part II has been added.  A respondent may choose Langerian Tenacity in Part II with absolutely no effect on that respondent’s  Bergsonian Tenacity score.  And thus correlating Specific Sub-Form scores with side test variables yields one Bergsonian answer and possibly a quite different Langerian answer.


Put into more humanistic terms, the specific Langerian sub-form score will tell us, for example, the level of our total preference for Langerian Tenacity, whether against Bergsonian Tenacity or against other Langerian sub-forms.  And this total preference can be entirely different from our total preference for Bergsonian Tenacity because that depends not only on how often we choose Bergsonian over Langerian Tenacity but also on how often we choose Bergsonian Tenacity over other Bergsonian sub-forms.


From ITCHS’ theoretical stance, a Langerian score, since it indicates a laughing with and joying with extraordinary life, represents personal ideals and predilections.  A Bergsonian score, since it indicates a caution against or a laughing against a less-than-fully-alive response, is much more likely to represent the cautions we place on ourselves in our public lives, our professions, and the like.


Illustrative Side-Test Result


Let us then consider one’s sum of Langerian Creativity responses.  In theory, a high Langerian Creativity sum suggests a personal ideal and predilection for creative behavior and solutions.





Now consider Projected Retirement Hobbies.  Some of the choices are rather mundane and much more the result of long commitment than of new creation—for example Grandchildren and Spouses.  Some are rather spectator in orientation, letting the creativity come from the outside rather than from inside.  Watching television seems in this category, but in this line of thinking so does Travel, unless one travels in some especially creative way.  It doesn’t take high creativity for most of us to recognize that in retirement we will probably need exercise.  The choice of exercise thus can be more or less creative.  Walking has been advocated since the ancient Greek physicians—it doesn’t need any great creativity compared to, say, aerobics, boating, or mountain climbing.


If we take Grandchildren, Travel, and Walking responses from the Care Provider experiment, choosing none of these three among one’s five projected retirement hobbies is associated with a high Langerian Creativity score, z =3.08, p=.008 on a Difference in Proportion Test.


Remembering that Langerian Creativity score (C+) is not necessarily a mirror image of the respondent’s Bergsonian Creativity (C-) score, we can then check for the relationship between C- and Walking, Travel, and Grandchildren.  The total range of C- for the Care Providers respondents was the full range possible, 0 to 6.  However, for those choosing none of the three hobbies designated in this study, the C- range was entirely confined between 2 and 4. In other words, those who chose none of these hobbies were solidly medial in their Bergsonian Creativity score.


This was not a high-confidence result, measuring z =1.838, p<.07 by a Difference in Proportion Test.  It is still impressively high and probably correct for groups like the Care Providers respondents.




How can we think in humanistic terms about such a result?  We again start from the theoretical, from the idea that Bergsonian scores are related to the public person, the work situation, and the like.  So we are looking at a result that would seem most appropriate for people who in their work roles were neither highly appreciative of creativity nor highly critical of creative lapses in their work approaches. 


We are looking at the middlish Bergsonian Creativity scores.  Perhaps these are the dutiful ones—willing to be creative where creativity is called for, not particularly distressed if the situation doesn’t call for creativity but something else, perhaps tenacity. Does not choosing Walking, Grandchildren, or Travel make sense with that?


I am not here trying to run the argument.  I am trying to show the kinds of standard logical thought patterns that go into understanding this kind of result, quite possibly having to try a particular line of thought only to discard it as improbable.


In this example, I am not sure that I would like to defend “dutiful” as a good representation of the middlish Bergsonian Creativity range.  Choosing Grandchildren—even if the chooser is only 20, 30, or 40 when the choice is made—seems highly dutiful to me.  Walking as good exercise seems dutiful to me.  These seem to contradict the result about those who did not choose Grandchildren and did not choose Walking being in the middlish (dutiful?) category.


Net Langerian-Bergsonian Sub-Score 


And this difference in results brings us to yet another measurement possible with the ELBVHT, the Net Langer-Bergson sub-score.  Mathematically this score is, notationally  for Creativity, ((C+)-(C-)), the Langerian Creativity score minus the Bergsonian Creativity score. 


The net score allows us to measure which is stronger between a Bergsonian and a Langerian sub-score and by how much.



Ilustrative Result


In the case of the correlation between Net Creativity and Walking, Grandchildren, and Travel as Projected Retirement Hobbies, those scoring 0  (no choices) in favor of the designated retirement hobbies are bunched just to the Langerian side of the midpoint of the Langer-Bergson spectrum with one moderately Bergsonian exception. Since Net score is a relative score, this can be restated as a mildly Langerian Net Creativity being associated with not choosing any of the three designated hobbies.


That those choosing none of the three hobbies are more likely to have Net Langerian than a balanced (0) or Bergsonian (negative) Net score measured z =2.4698, p<.014 by a Difference in Proportion Test.


At the present time, I would understand this to be a confirmatory version of the Langerian Sub-Form result that failure to choose these hobbies is more likely with respondents with strong inner Creativity indicated by strong Langerian Creativity humor scores and /or by weak Bergsonian Creativity humor scores.




Data from better than 90 attendees at the Care Providers professional convention in Minneapolis in November 2008 are instructive for understanding the range of humor measures which can be constructed from the ELBVHT.  In this issue, we have treated only analytic results from Care Providers, that is results based on the four Langerian and four Bergsonian sub-scores generated by the test.  Theoretically, we can move from such consideration to consideration of synthetic results, results which are based in combinations of two humor preferences, what we at ITCHS call “humor personalities.” We leave such discussion for a later issue.


                                                                                    Paul Grawe. ITCHS




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