Can brain stimulation improve semantic joke comprehension?

Bat el Yankovitz, Nira Mashal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Semantic humour involves a deviation from lexico-semantic rules that introduces ambiguity into interpretation of a situation. The left Inferior Frontal Gyrus (IFG) has been implicated in humour processing (e.g. semantic puns, ambiguity resolution). The present study aimed to examine whether transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) over the left IFG would enhance semantic ambiguity resolution. In two sessions, fifteen participants aged 20–35 years received either offline anodal tDCS or sham stimulation for 20 min, after which they read semantically ambiguous humorous sentences, literal (non-ambiguous) sentences, and meaningless sentences, and then performed a semantic judgment task relating to each sentence’s final word. Results showed that ambiguity resolution requires longer processing than literality. However, left IFG stimulation was ineffective in increasing ambiguity resolution. Researchers should target different brain areas in both hemispheres to further explore humour comprehension.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)357-368
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Cognitive Psychology
Issue number4
Early online date26 Apr 2020
StatePublished - 18 May 2020

Bibliographical note

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© 2020, © 2020 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Humor
  • left IFG
  • semantic ambiguity resolution
  • tDCS


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