Humor in the eye tracker: attention capture and distraction from context cues.

Abstract

The humor effect refers to a robust finding in memory research that humorous information is easily recalled, at the expense of recall of nonhumorous information that was encoded in close temporal proximity. Previous research suggests that memory retrieval processes underlie this effect. That is, free recall is biased toward humorous information, which interferes with the retrieval of nonhumorous information. The present research tested an additional explanation that has not been specifically addressed before: Humor receives enhanced attention during information encoding, which decreases attention for context information. Participants observed humorous, nonhumorous positive, and nonhumorous neutral texts paired with novel consumer brands, while their eye movements were recorded using eye-tracker technology. The results confirmed that humor receives prolonged attention relative to both positive and neutral nonhumorous information. This enhanced attention correlated with impaired brand recognition.

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