IMS seminar aurora
IMS seminar

Emilio Audissino, Gestalt Psychology and Audiovisual Humour

Welcome to the weekly IMS seminar!

This week Emilio Audissino will give a presentation on "Gestalt Psychology and Audiovisual Humour".

About the seminar

In my previous work about film music, I had adopted Gestalt as a theoretical framework to explain the functions and effects of music in film. I developed what I call ‘micro/macro configurations’ analysis. In films, music contributes to the overall form with its specific gestalt (the configuration of the musical structures), and such musical gestalt meets the gestalt of some other cinematic device/s. Besides music, any device (light design, colour schemes, dialogue, acting, camerawork, cutting…) has a specific micro-configuration that can fuse with those of the other devices, and it can be analysed in terms of micro/macro-configuration. The product of the fusion of these micro-configurations is a macro-configuration that is stabilised according to the 'prägnanz' and the other Gestalt laws, and in which the devices create an audiovisual whole that is ‘something else than the sum of its parts’, to use Kurt Koffka's famous definition of Gestalt (= configuration).

More recently, I have applied this Gestalt-inspired analytical approach to audiovisual humour, more specifically to study how ‘audiovisual puns’, ‘sight gags’, and ‘perceptual pranks’ work. Placing myself in the area of 'Incongruity Theories of Humour', I have adopted an angle that stems more from perception rather than from cognition (this is the principal difference between my Gestalt-based approach and the approaches typical of Cognitive Theories), positing a neater differentiation and independence between 'primary processes' (perception) and 'secondary processes' (cognition), following the work of Gaetano Kanizsa.

I have proposed that audiovisual humour works in ways similar to how optical illusions, multistable figures (instances of Koestler's 'bisociation' that are not cognitive but perceptual), and impossible figures work. I have also adopted Gestalt's theory of problem solving (the 'insight' and 'Aha! Moment') to recentre the interpretation of audiovisual humour (but this could apply to film interpretation in general) as a matter of perceptual reconfiguration rather than cognitive hypothesis testing. The bulk of my examples have come from the cinema of the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker trio, whose comedy is largely based on a clash of incongruous micro-configurations, on perceptual accumulation that creates results similar to multistable figures, and even on comical optical illusions.

How to attend

It is possible to attend the seminar both from Dacke in Växjö and via zoom. Contact us at if you want to participate via zoom, or sign up for our external email list to receive automatic updates on our events (zoom link and additional information are sent out one week in advance).


Photo: 'Aurora - Connecting Senses’, Cristina Pop-Tiron & Signe Kjær Jensen

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