The joke which you cite: "It was good while I lasted." could also be analyzed as an example of Stimulation Theory, since the sudden shift from "it" to "I" requires rapid evaluation of alternative meanings, some of which are mildly shocking. The most obvious implication is, as you say, that the joker drank too much, which is slight form of misbehavior. Whether or not such a quip would provoke laughter, the average listener would understand it as playful speech, intended to stimulate within the range of tolerance, in the same fashion as a tickle or a roller coaster ride.
I would take issue with your assertion that "There is something in our brain which prevents us from holding two contrasting or contradictory ideas at the same time." I frequently encounter people who cling to a vast array of religious, philosophical and political beliefs that are inconsistent, self-contradictory and divorced from reality. It never ceases to amaze me how many people dabble in astrology, while swearing by some religion which condemns it. I wonder what the basis is for claiming that we cannot hold contradictory ideas? Is this a testable hypothesis?
As for your last question about the definition of humor, I think it has been firmly established in this discussion, and numerous others before it, that this is a word with a nebulous meaning, one which has changed and evolved over time, and which varies depending on the context and the intentions of the individual who uses it.
Always a pleasure,
--- On Sun, 12/7/08, Roy E. Russell <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> From: Roy E. Russell <[log in to unmask]>
> Subject: Re: [HUMOUR-RESEARCH] Humor and not humor
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Date: Sunday, December 7, 2008, 12:34 PM
> Humor Researchers,
> Donald, I agree, we need more science in our humor
> research and more precise definitions of the terms we use.
> I have never understood what is meant by "resolving an
> incongruity", if resolving means incorporating the two
> incongruous parts into the same concept or thought. This is
> my understanding of the term incongruity:
> There is something in our brain which prevents us from
> holding two contrasting or contradictory ideas at the same
> time. I would call two such ideas incongruous. These ideas
> can never be combined into one coherent concept. Two
> ''incongruous'' ideas which can be resolved,
> made congruous, by a change in the perspective of the viewer
> were congruous to begin with.
> To illustrate we will use a simple joke:
> How was the party last night?
> It was great while I lasted.
> ''It was great while it lasted'' is a more
> familiar phrase. The''I'' in the
> fellow's reply is a little disturbing or puzzling.
> But,a party, free drinks, a thirsty guest, it makes sense.
> He wouldn't last long. Now, we may have solved a
> puzzle, or adjusted a disturbance, but have we combined
> these two contrasting ideas into one coherent thought? Look
> again. These two ideas are still at odds with each other.
> Short of changing the ideas into something else, they will
> remain so.
> The mind has another trick. It combines items with
> similar characteristics into a unit. The, ''great
> while it lasted'', differs only in that one letter
> from the, ''great while I lasted''. These
> phrases, even though they represent two very different
> ideas, are united.
> There is no way to deal with two contradictory ideas
> simultaneously, nor can they be separated.
> So, our brain isn't perfect, but it is this
> imperfection that gives us humor. Now, there is another
> fuzzy term. Does anyone have a good solid definition of