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.
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