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Misdirection

  • By: Graeme Ritchie
  • In: Encyclopedia of Humor Studies
  • Edited by: Salvatore Attardo
  • Subject:General Media, Communication & Cultural Studies, Sociology of Culture

Misdirection is a broad term that applies to techniques of information presentation that implicitly encourage the audience to adopt one interpretation of what is being presented, despite the fact that another interpretation is not only possible but will later become more obvious. This is relevant to humor (such as jokes) in which expectations are established only to be violated later. This entry discusses how misdirection can lead an audience away from an interpretation that subsequently is revealed to be central to the humorous effect.

The notion of misdirection fits within a particular account of humor, often discussed with reference to humor presented in language. Humor can occur in ordinary life when a person misperceives or misunderstands a situation, perhaps making unconscious predictions, then realizes what the ...

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