What is the most misunderstood thing about pseudoscience

Self-expression in science

8 Humor in scientific discussions

Sympathy is a social resource that also plays an important role in a scientific context: For example, networking and (planned) research collaborations are dependent on the competence and expertise of the participants, but sympathy and personal preferences are just as important factors in the selection of cooperation partners. When analyzing positive self-portrayal behavior, one central point must therefore be taken into account: one can strive for professional competence and recognition, it can be negotiated interactively - sympathy, on the other hand, is not negotiable, but given111. Schütz makes it clear that “the effect of the self-portrayal of the respective assessor in the Field of tension between Competence and sympathy stands. To be experienced as competent often also means to appear less sympathetic and vice versa ”(Schütz 2000: 195; Herv. In the orig.). But how do scientists manage to present themselves positively as individuals - regardless of their professional qualities - in a competitive context characterized by objectivity and rationality? Research should be politeness, a sense of humor, restraint and a healthy level of modesty112 in communication as central factors in personal, positive self-expression. There is extensive literature on politeness, on the factors and effects of polite communication (e.g. Brown / Levinson 2011 [1978], Lakoff 1973, Leech 1983; summarized and on more recent linguistic approaches Hoppmann 2008). Therefore, detailed analyzes of the politeness behavior of the discussion participants are dispensed with in this thesis; nevertheless, courtesy is an important aspect when examining self-portrayal and is not neglected in the specific analysis context. Instead of looking at politeness again, the focus should be on the use of humor. Although scientific conferences are occasions in which research content is presented, scientific exchange takes place and actors are accordingly fact-oriented during the lecture and discussion phases, there are many sequences in the data in which actors make jokes or provoke laughter in the audience through intelligent comments. As shown below, ← 417 | 418 → the use of humor fulfills different functions and has different effects on the situation and the relationships between the interactants113. It must be noted that scientists must maintain the balance between factual orientation and seriousness on the one hand and humorous entertainment and spontaneity on the other in order to maintain the impression of professionalism (cf. Konzett 2012: 296). The central questions of this chapter are therefore: What functions does humor fulfill in scientific discussions? How is it presented linguistically?

8.1 Methodological enrichment

From a linguistic point of view, humor and its linguistic expression have been studied in great detail. In both the German and the English-American language areas, works were presented that analyze humor from different perspectives (cf. Kotthoff 1996a / b, 1998; Alexander 1997; Hirsch 2011; Goatly 2012; Ehrhardt 2013; Schubert 2014). A detailed treatment of the humor theories from Plato via Horace to modern humor theories from Freud and the whole range of linguistic description possibilities can be found in Attardo (1994). The anthology by Dynel (2013) contains articles on current trends and priorities in dealing with humor. Some of the linguistic works deal with the manifestations of humor in concrete contexts and the functions that humor fulfills in everyday communication. Holmes (2000) deals with the functions of humor in professional conversations, Knight (2013) deals with the function of humor between friends and the anthology by Kotthoff (1996b) “Humor and Power in Conversations between Women and Men” (title of the volume). The phenomenon of humor is also analyzed in other disciplines. In the magazine “The European journal of humor research. EJHR ”, which has been published by the International Society for Humor Studies since 2012, brings together essays from various disciplines and countries. Schubert's anthology (2014a) is also devoted to the subject of humor from a multidisciplinary - including linguistic - point of view. Psychological studies on humor emphasize the positive psychological effects and functions of laughter and humor (Grotjahn 1974; Blum 1980), especially in psychotherapy as “therapeutic humor” (Titze 2011). Due to its positive effect, humor is also consciously used in certain contexts. An investigation into how good humor is in university sub ← 418 | 419 → this is right for students, Torok et al. (2004). Numerous works point to the cultural dependence of humor. On the one hand, humor is often examined in a culture-specific manner (e.g. for Japan: Wells 1997, Davis 2006; for the USA: Rourke 1953; for France: Messmer 1970), on the other hand, culture-contrasting (e.g. German-Chinese: Cui 2014).

Showing oneself humorous serves the positive self-expression. Humor works on the relationship level and creates closeness between communication partners because it makes people approachable despite their different status (cf. Holmes 2000: 160; Webber 2002: 246; Schubert 2014: 22). In addition, it has a group-building and relationship-affirming effect, for example by providing the opportunity to laugh together (cf. Holmes 2000: 159; Konzett 2012: 333; Knight 2013: 553; Schubert 2014: 22). In addition, it contributes to a positive atmosphere, can resolve interpersonal tensions and end conflicts and thereby enable people to approach each other (cf. Webber 2002: 246; Norrick / Spitz 2008: 1661). Humor can also threaten the face of the actor, namely when his humorous utterances do not ignite the audience and the expected laughter fails to materialize. Schubert identifies various reasons for silence after a joke:

On the one hand, the silence can indicate a rejection of the joke or the joke presentation if it is classified as offensive or not humorous or if the punch line is already known. Since this zero reaction to the narrator of the joke in turn has a rude or even compromising effect, it can hinder the smooth progress of further communication. On the other hand, the silence can indicate that the punch line was not understood, which can be remedied more easily by asking and explaining. (Schubert 2014: 25)

As is easy to see, silence also has an impact on the actors' images: The joke teller can be perceived as vulgar, uncomfortable or boring and the listener as not intelligent enough or lacking in humor. The resulting pause in conversation is face-threatening, so the conversation has to be resumed as quickly as possible. In addition, there are situations in which humorous statements have to be made several times before they are (want to) be perceived (cf. Norrick / Spitz 2008: 1673). Whether humor is or will be understood candepends on various factors: the context and the shared knowledge (cf. Schubert 2014: 19f., 32).

Humor is an expression of polite and friendly behavior, which the following examples show: First, the mishaps of another (which are potentially facial-threatening) can be humorously commented on and therefore trivialized (cf. Brown / Levinson 2011: 104; Schubert 2014: 22). Second, things can be uttered ← 419 | 420 → who are otherwise perceived as impolite (cf. ibid .: 97), and thirdly, a potential face- threatening utterance can be weakened by, for example, changing to a dialect (cf. ibid .: 111; cf. on the entire section ibid .: 124). In addition, difficult positions can be put forward in a humorous way, under the guise of unreality, so to speak, in order to test the reactions of the interaction partners. Depending on the reaction, the position can then be withdrawn or strengthened (cf. Knight 2013: 556). Humorous self-critical statements are also possible without your own face is endangered, because a sense of humor creates sympathy (cf. ibid .: 554; Schubert 2014: 22).

According to Holmes, humor in the work context fulfills the following functions, among others:

1. Humour as positive politeness

1.1 Humour can address the hearer’s / addressee’s positive face needs by expressing solidarity or collegiality.

1.2 Humour can be used to protect the speaker's positive face needs by expressing self-deprecatory meanings or apologetic sentiments

2. Humour as negative politeness

2.1 Humour can be used to attenuate the threat to the hearer's / addressee's negative face by downtoning or hedging an FTA [Face Threatening Act; L. R.], such as a directive.

2.2 Humour can be used to attenuate the threat to hearer's / addressee's positive face by downtoning or hedging a Face Attack Act (Austin 1990) such as a criticism or insult.

(Holmes 2000: 167; edited in orig.)

Accordingly, humor allows a friendly demeanor, group formation through shared laughter based on common norms, perspectives, etc., as well as solidarity (1.1) (cf. ibid.). In addition, humor can increase one's own reputation, it can serve for self-defense and have a weakening effect on difficult information (1.2) (cf. ibid .: 169). Humor can also help with negative criticism as well as prompts and commands face-more careful to apply (depending on power asymmetries): So commands can be uttered without the face of the communication partner. In this way, the commanding person ensures himself a positive image by signaling that he is considerate of the face of his counterpart, shows him respect and is cooperative (2.1) (cf. ibid .: 171; cf. also Schubert 2014: 22). Even expressions that injure the face can be weakened by humor. This weakening signals that the speaker recognizes the need to save face of the addressee (2.2). "Humor ← 420 | 421 → is thus a very useful strategy for softening criticisms in contexts where work is being regularly evaluated and assessed ”(Holmes 2000: 172); This is especially true for scientific discussions in which mutual criticism in the communication situation is a precondition and a requirement.

In addition to these functions, power relations can be confirmed through humor (“repressive humor”; Holmes 2000: 175). On the one hand, higher-ranking people can use humor to confirm and / or strengthen their position, but on the other hand they can also weaken criticism of subordinates and thus make their position of power less relevant (cf. ibid. 176). This is supported by a study by Norrick / Spitz (2008: 1673) who found that humorous utterances by subordinate employees do not affect the situation as long as the superior does not respond positively to the humor. Humor is also used to express difficult opinions or to immunize oneself against criticism. In addition, subordinates can subtly break through the power structure, since humorous utterances develop less potential for attack (cf. Holmes 2000: 177).

Norrick / Spitz (2008) also put the aggressive, face- Threatening potential out of humor: First, jokes can be directed against a person, being one face-The threat and possible loss of face must be accepted. Second, jokes in inappropriate situations (e.g. in professional work sessions) can be perceived by the communication partners as aggressive and as "an intrusion, an interruption, a waste of time" (Norrick / Spitz 2008: 1663). Third, jokes are, to some extent, an intelligence, knowledge, and group membership test. You are intelligent when you recognize a punch line; one is knowledgeable if one knows the issues raised; one belongs to the group if one understands a (group-internal, typical) joke (cf. ibid.).

What is the hallmark of humor and how can it be identified linguistically? Schubert formulates a definition of humor that should also apply to the present work:

Humor is not only a general human disposition, but also a culture-specific communication strategy to achieve certain goals that is part of linguistic and pragmatic competence. (Schubert 2014: 17f.)

Forms of humor are, for example, jokes, jokes and funny comments (cf. Schubert 2014: 24). Because it is difficult to identify humor from a purely linguistic perspective, the focus is mostly on the laughter of the participants in the interaction: Laughter often arises - but by no means always - as a reaction to a funny sequence, which is then analyzed more closely (cf. Knight 2013: 555, 556). ← 421 | 422 →

Various approaches have been developed to explain how humor works: According to Raskins (1985) "Script opposition theory", the joke arises from the contrast between the overlapping scripts. This approach was expanded to a “General Theory of Verbal Humor, GTVH” by Attardo / Raskin (1991), which now - what the name general already indicates - includes further elements to explain jokes (cf. Knight 2013: 555; summarized Schubert 2014: 18-22).

Tracy (1997), Frobert-Adamo (2002) Konzett (2012) examined humor in the context of scientific discussions. Tracy points out that humor is typically used at the beginning of a lecture or when changing into the discussion phase to address nervousness and discomfort (cf. Tracy 1997: 122). Frobert-Adamo (2002) also points to this stress-relieving function of humor in her article; it shows that humor protects the speaker, since he stands as a “buffer” between speaker and audience (cf. Frobert-Adamo 2002: 217). Konzett (2012) primarily identifies two ways to be entertaining: funny, short narrative insertions and funny one-liners that have an entertaining effect through positioning, timing and linguistic elements (e.g. hyperbolas, unusual contrasts, linguistic jokes) (cf. . Konzett 2012: 296, 333).

In the present study, all utterances are considered to be an expression of humor that induces or is intended to induce laughter. Therefore, when analyzing humor, it is important to factor in the audience's reactions. Normally, one can assume that laughter in the audience means that something is perceived as funny (although laughter can also occur out of shame, horror or helplessness). The following are considered to be an expression of humor: jokes, funny examples / illustrations and stories, funny comments, irony, i.e. everything that is intended to provoke laughter. In addition, there are own reactions to involuntarily triggered laughter, e.g. B. Slips of the tongue or mishaps (cf. Schubert 2014: 32). Sarcasm is not one of the elements that should trigger laughter and reduce distance in the sense of humor. On the contrary, sarcasm is directed "against a person ”(Gruber 1996: 247; Herv. L. R.) and contains a negative evaluation or emotion. Irony, on the other hand, is "neutral in its interactive effects" (ibid.), So it does not necessarily arise from negative feelings.

Linguistic indicators of humor can be found on the lexical, phonetic, morphological, syntactic, semantic and pragmatic level (cf. Schubert 2014: 26-32). In the field of phonology, it is above all homophony on which jokes can be based: “Due to their tonal identity, homophonic lexemes in particular have the potential to be used in verbally presented jokes ← 422 | 423 → to lead to ambiguities ”(ibid .: 26). In the printed word, graphic elements such as B. the layout and special features in the spelling create funny effects (cf. ibid .: 27). At the level of morphology, for example, creative contamination, i.e. spontaneous ad-hoc formations, make an utterance joke (cf. ibid.). The semantics is also the source of many funny effects: Polysemies, "idioms, syntactic cross-references" (ibid .: 28) and the incorrect use of technical terms (= malapropism, especially confusion) play important roles here (cf. ibid.). Grammatical errors or deliberate rule violations are further causes of humor and jokes: "There are a number of grammatical structures that can be used in divergent ways, so that incongruence or ambiguity in the comic sense arises" (ibid .: 29). In the area of ​​pragmatics, the context and the interactants as well as their expressions are of particular interest; Central here are Grice’s conversation maxims, which are violated in order to generate a joke (cf. ibid .: 30).Last but not least, a funny effect can also be achieved through the choice of registers: humor can [...] be caused by abrupt incongruities in the register, which are commonly referred to as 'stylistic inconsistencies' ”(ibid .: 31).

Joke and comedy thus manifest themselves on different linguistic levels (which can also be combined). It is precisely on these levels that the humorous statements of the discussants are analyzed.

The functions of humor discussed are summarized in the following table (Tab. 46) in a systematic manner:

Table 46: Methodological enrichment: humor- and joke-related criteria - compilation of the categories of humor and the linguistic levels of joke generation.

categoryExplanation / functionsource
Forms and causes of humor and funny effectsshort narrative insertions (stories)Concert 2012
One-linerConcert 2012
JokesSchubert 2014
JokesSchubert 2014
Comments / examples / illustrationsSchubert 2014
ironyGruber 1996
Slip of the tongue or misfortunesSchubert 2014 ← 423 | 424 →
Linguistic meanslinguistic elements on all linguistic levels (lexicons, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics)Schubert 2014
positioningConcert 2012
timingConcert 2012
General effect of humorCreate closeness / form groupsHolmes 2000; Concert 2012; Knight 2013; Schubert 2014; Webber 2002
positive influence on the atmosphereWebber 2002; Norrick / Spitz 2008
Release tensionWebber 2002; Norrick / Spitz 2008
End conflictsWebber 2002; Norrick / Spitz 2008
Confirmation of power relationsHolmes 2000; Norrick / Spitz 2008
Expression of courtesyBrown / Levinson 2011; Schubert 2014
Protection of the stranger faceMitigation of criticism, requests, ordersHolmes 2000; Knight 2013
faceGentle commentary and trivialization of mishapsBrown / Levinson 2011; Schubert 2014
Protection of your own faceSelf defenseHolmes 2000
Immunization against criticismHolmes 2000
Addressing and covering up discomfortTracy 1997; Frobert-Adamo 2002
Threat to one's own faceNo response due to rejection of the jokeSchubert 2014
Failure to respond to failure to understandSchubert 2014 ← 424 | 425 →

8.2 Humor in interdisciplinary discussions

The analysis shows that humor fulfills the following functions in scientific discussions: It serves (a) to protect one's own face (Section 8.2.1), to protect others’s face in (b) compliments (Section 8.2.2), (c ) in the event of attacks and dissent (Section 8.2.3), (d) in the event of provocations (Section 8.2.4), (e) serves to relieve tension (Section 8.2.5) and allows (f) the criticism of circumstances in form from gallows humor (Section 8.2.6).

8.2.1Humor to protect your own face

Humor is known for being able to help over potentially face-threatening situations and for protecting one's own face. In the discussions it is used to comment on mishaps (e.g. technical problems and slip of the tongue) and thus possible face- Mitigate threats. It turns out that the confident, humorous handling of such mishaps can even enhance your image.

In the first sequence, for example, the speaker SozPm had a technical problem during the discussion when he was told by the discussant LingPwA. is asked a question and wants to call up a specific slide in his PowerPoint presentation to answer it. SozPm accidentally activates the webcam, which films him and shows his face in close-up and in an unfavorable perspective on the screen:

Sequence 148: Discussant LingPwA., Lecturer SozPm and discussant GeschPmA. in the plenary discussion; TK 1_1: 004-018.← 425 | 426 →

With the interjection ei daiss (Line 007) SozPm expresses his amazement (or possibly his annoyance) that calling up the slide did not work. At first he does not notice that his face can be seen on the screen, but only as LingPwA. makes him aware of the activation of the webcam and the audience starts laughing. GeschPmA. rates the situation as positive and funny (is great), shows his amusement at these technical problems. SozPm then turns the situation into a positive light with witty humor by projecting his face as purest self-reference and takes as an example of what self-reference ideally looks like; the positive reviews are evident in paradise and in the negation of the negative in no disturbing environment. SozPm confidently faces the potentially embarrassing and thus face-threatening situation with his humor.

Slips of the tongue can also be facial-threatening in everyday life as well as in professional and scientific discussions - depending on the type of slip and the sovereignty of the actor. In the following example, the speaker shows himself to be just as confident and aggressive in dealing with his misconduct as SozPm in the previous sequence:

Sequence 149: eTheoPmA. in the focus discussion with PhyPmA.; TK 3_1: 123-128.

The transcript continues with a contradiction sequence from eTheoPmA. one that responds to a question from PhyPmA. responds with a suggested solution to the problem. His slip of the tongue quantum theology (instead of Quantum theory) triggers laughter. First PhyPm correctsA. his slip of the tongue and continues to speak, but then cannot avoid laughing, reacts to the laughter of the audience and expresses laughter it shouldn't exist. He maintains control of the situation by continuing to speak calmly and firmly after a short pause, during which the audience laughs and claps exuberantly. Due to this calm and the offensive and humorous handling of the slip of the tongue, the situation is hardly face-threatening and is completed without further disturbance. This sequence is a prime example of “second laughables” (Konzett 2012: 316), which Konzett describes. Second laughables result from the correction of one's own error with the following comment: "The humor is evoked by the speaker’s repair utterance, in which he reconsiders his first utterance and meta-linguisti ← 426 | 427 → cally analyzes his use of [an expression, L. R.] as completely out of place in the context "(Konzett 2012: 316). In our example, however, the term used is Quantum theology is therefore not appropriate because it is an ad hoc construction (contamination) from the discussed topic and the own discipline (and the emerging term or the emerging discipline does not exist).

Humor can also be used for face-saving self-criticism: