Anxiety figured quite prominently in early theory about humor. Sigmund Freud focused on sex and aggression as both biological drives and content that were presumably repressed in order to minimize anxiety. Wit, which for Freud consisted largely of jokes, was hypothesized to enable a person to release repressed energy and enjoy these otherwise prohibited topics without arousing anxiety because of the mechanisms in joke work, such as displacement. His theories on humor have not been well supported in research, but his emphasis on anxiety predates considerable research interest on how humor and anxiety relate to each other. Arthur Koestler (1964) argued that some element, “an impulse, however faint of aggression or apprehension,” was necessary for experiencing humor (p. 51). In this approach, it is hypothesized ...

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