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The Humor Quotient Newsletter

Vol. 13, No. 3 November, 2011 Winona, MN


Age Patterns for Vitalist Subtype Interest


In the last issue of HQN, we discussed patterns in preference, in overall Langerian-Bergsonian preference by decadal age as well as in Langerian-Bergsonian Performance preference by decadal age.   In this issue using the same 212 respondents, we will consider patterns of interest in Vitalist humor subtype by decadal age.  


Establishing an Interest within Vitalist Humor


The second half of the ELBVHT poses preference questions with the form X+,Y+ or X-,Y-.  That is, each of four Langerian and four Bergsonian Vitalist humor subtypes is pitted against each of the other subtypes of the same Vitalist voice.  Thus a Langerian Tenacity joke will be pitted against a Langerian Potential joke, or a Bergsonian Creativity joke will be pitted against a Bergsonian Performance joke.


In Part II, it is possible for a respondent to choose 3 Langerian and 3 Bergsonian jokes of the same subtype—Tenacity, say, or Creativity.  And in choosing more of one sub-type, a respondent will be choosing less of another sub-type. 




Thus Part II generates 4 sub scores for Interest in Tenacity, Potential, Creativity, and Performance, where subtype Interest is defined as the total choices for that subtype, either Langerian or Bergsonian:  for example, ((T+) + (T-).This Interest may be manifested in a Langerian choice (which in theory reveals the biases of the inner self) or in a Bergsonian choice (which in theory reveals a bias of one’s interests in the world outside oneself).  What is at stake in the Interest score is not subjective versus objective reality but interest in a Vitalist subtype over interest in the other Vitalist subtypes, whether Langerian or Bergsonian.


Let us consider an example of how human interest might be manifest in humorous preference. We stereotypically expect grandmothers to be interested in their grandchildren’s potential.  When this is the source of humorous delight, the delight in the extraordinary life of small children, it is a manifestation of Langerian Potential humor. 


However, what if the same grandmother also is quite interested in lapses or lacks of potential, movements away from full development and the like?  This may be an entirely unhumorous interest and outside the purview of this study.  But if the person in question enjoys laughing at these lapses or lacks in potential, then that is a manifestation of Bergsonian Potential humor.  If one is both quick to laugh with the extraordinary potential in life and also quick to laugh at the mechanical encrusted on living potential, at the lapses in potential development, and the like, then this combination represents a high Vitalist Interest in Potential.


In framing this discussion around a grandmotherly figure, we are calling attention to the possibility that not all Vitalist interests are born or created equal for the population as a whole and that in fact perhaps such interests wax and wane, for the population as a whole, over a lifetime.  These possibilities can, of course, be subjects for abstract philosophical speculation.  Is there, however, reason to think that a testing program, like our ELBVHT testing in this Seven Group Study can give us approximate timings for such Vitalist Interest waxings and/or wanings over a lifetime?





With a large study of 212 individuals across eight decades of life, we believe there can be meaningful measurement of these turning points in Vitalist Interest.


Specifically, we can test the relationship between reported decadal age and a Vitalist Interest subscore.  We can then use a second-degree equation to statistically correlate the two.  The second-degree equation can then be investigated for its maximum or minimum, which will be the wax or wane point for that Vitalist Interest.


It should be noted that this measurement of the specific age for the waxing or waning of the tide of some particular Vitalist Interest is entirely separate from the question whether some Vitalist Interests are generally stronger or weaker than others, either in the population as a whole or in individual participants.




Graphically, we can talk about second-degree equations as creating curves more or less resembling frowns or smiles.  Three of the four Vitalist Interest graphs exhibit “frowning face” curves for the relationship between age and Interest.  These are Tenacity, Creativity and Performance Interest.  The high point on the frown curve is an approximation of the optimum specific age at which that particular Vitalist interest begins to wan.  Several additional statistical tests can be used to refine this estimate, but the results will tend to be closely related.


The charts below represent waxing and waning Interest in each of these three Vitalist subtypes for the 212 useable responses in the Seven Group Study.  Since by our testing instrument, a decadal age of 4, for example, represents the decade of years starting with 40, the average age within the decadal age of 4 is 44.5. Thus for these graphs we have adjusted the reported decadal age by adding .45 to reflect an average age for that decade.





The graph for the relationship between age and Performance Interest shows a frowning curve and suggests that Performance Interest begins to wane at about age 33.





The graph for the relationship between age and Creativity Interest shows a frowning curve and suggests that Creativity Interest begins to wane at about age 57.




The graph for the relationship between age and Tenacity Interest shows a frowning curve and suggests that Tenacity Interest begins to wane at about age 68.






The fourth graph, for Potential Interest, exhibits a “smiling” curve for the relationship between age and Potential Interest, with most of the upswing of the curve being to the right, or higher age side of the graph. For this case, we are looking for the minimum value, the age at which Potential Interest begins to increase. This smiling curve suggests that Performance Interest begins to wax at about age 48.






Perhaps the most obvious thing to say about this set of results is that for a large combined group with something like an 80% majority of women respondents, the grandmotherly stereotype of Interest in Vitalist Potential is amply confirmed.  Alone among the four Vitalist Interests, Potential has an upslope to the right of age 60. There is no waning turn date at all for Potential: the line of regression is highest at the highest age level tested.


Perhaps more importantly, this data set exhibits turning points at quite different ages for the four Interests.  Our youngest respondent was eighteen.  We had numerous respondents in their nineties.  Thus the age range of the study closes in on 80 years.  Of that total range of possible estimated turn dates, Tenacity’s waning is indicated at about 68 while Performance’s waning is indicated at 33, at least 30 years lower.  Thus the difference in high and low wane dates is 3/8 of the entire recorded age range. 


From a Humanistic Perspective


Let us try to picture these mathematical findings in hypothetical humanistic examples.


I.  Imagine someone who has particular pleasure in laughing with extraordinary performance—perhaps the Packer-backer who, when Brett Favre used to throw those broken-play touchdown passes, laughed the loudest, enjoying Langerian Performance humor.  But this someone also scarfs up all the NFL blooper tapes ever produced, in order to laugh at lapses in Performance, enjoying Bergsonian Performance humor.


In this case, we are likely to imagine this someone to be male.  But now, a second guess—how old is this person, whether he or she?  I think our pictorial presumption is that this is a young adult Packer fan.  By our Seven Group measurement, Performance Interest should top out around age 33.  People just establishing their careers and their families need to be concerned with performance.





II. Imagine someone who can read about some new discovery in astrophysics or someone who can read about some new “summer tomato pie” recipe and smile or even laugh out loud for the enjoyment of seeing human Creativity at work.  Imagine the same person also finding a lot of “dumb and dumber” humor quite delightful, laughing at the idée fixe, or at false creativity or trivial creativity in a stupid cause, in other words, enjoying Bergsonian Creativity humor.


How old does such a person seem to be, simply from the description?  Dumb and dumber humor is often appreciated by teenagers.  But combined with the Langerian possibility of appreciation for extraordinarily alive creativity, I suspect most of us would imagine someone older.  By our Seven Group measurement, Creativity Interest tops out around 57.  It is noteworthy that Bergsonian Creativity humor lends itself to expert in-jokes, the sort of thing that creates bonds within established work teams.


III.  Imagine someone who laughs out loud at a picture of a mountain goat  hanging onto a ledge peering down a mountain precipice, seemingly balanced on a dime, in other words, probably some laughing with and some appreciation of Langerian Performance, but also of Langerian Tenacity. Imagine the same person being quick to laugh at the “quitter”—no sense of true grit here!  In other words, this someone seems to enjoy Bergsonian laughter at lapses of Tenacity as well.


Again, how old do we assume such a person is?  Neither reaction is limited to any single age.  But as characterizing someone’s age, I think we again move toward an older average estimate. By our Seven Group measurement, Tenacity Interest tops out at 68. People around retirement age are sensitized to issues of sticking it out—at work, in their health, and in life generally.






IV. We have already considered the grandmotherly interest in Potential and noted that within our study, Potential Interest continues to climb with age.  This finding is consistent with anecdotal reports at Winona Health by Chaplain Bill Flesch who has used humorous pictures of babies, puppies, and the like in reaching some patients closest to death or most limited by dementia.


The results of our study, then, of 212 respondents of ages ranging from 18 to at least 90 suggest a rolling peaking of Interest in the four sub forms of Vitalist Humor as people age, with Performance Interest peaking first, then Creativity Interest, and then Tenacity Interest, with Potential Interest continuing to rise with age.


Robin Jaeckle Grawe






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