Event-related potential (ERP) evidence for the differential cognitive processing of semantic jokes and pun jokes

Yi Tzu Chang, Li Chuan Ku, Ching Lin Wu, Hsueh Chih Chen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Brain-imaging studies report that separate neural correlates are associated with processing of different types of humorous materials. However, such evidence lacks temporal information. In this study, we examined the temporal dynamics of humour comprehension between two types of jokes: semantic (SEMs) and pun (PUNs) jokes, using electroencephalographic (EEG) techniques. Thirty SEMs and 30 PUNs were presented to 16 healthy subjects, and their EEG data were concurrently recorded. PUNs consequently showed a larger N400 amplitude than did SEMs, without a specified scalp site, which implies that PUNs induce greater surprise and semantic violation. Meanwhile, SEMs induced a larger P600-like amplitude at the posterior site, which implies that, in order to understand SEMs, higher working memory loads are needed to form novel associations and successfully frame-shift. A possible explanation is the differing logical mechanisms used to understand SEMs and PUNs: the former builds on semantic relationships, the latter on phonological causality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-144
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Cognitive Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Feb 17


  • Humour
  • N400
  • P600
  • puns
  • semantic jokes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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