The last general property of humor we will discuss is comprehension difficulty. A role for comprehension difficulty in humor is discussed in Wyer & Collins 1992, which points out that according to a number of studies, perceived humor increases as comprehension difficulty increases, then decreases as it becomes even more difficult. Wyer & Collins make this a central tenet of their theory of humor (Proposition 7). Their treatment, closely following Apter (1982), has some similarities to the present one. They describe humor as involving a reinterpretation where the importance or value of something is diminished (that is, the evaluation shifts from good to less good, important to unimportant, etc.). This may be viewed as similar to the present theory, in that a diminishment in value is implied when something normal is reinterpreted as a moral violation. However, the diminishment claim translates in the present theory to the view that order matters, and that the V interpretation must come second, a point argued to be false in the above discussion, Order. Further, Wyer & Collins exclude from the domain of humor those cases where subjects don't perceive (and verbally report) their humorous responses as amusement. Infant laughter and amusement that isn't admitted to by subjects are not considered instances of humor, for example - another prima facie weakness not shared by the present theory.
The role of comprehension difficulty in Wyer & Collins' treatment may be re-expressed in terms of the present theory under certain restricted conditions. At the far end of the difficulty scale, difficulty in identifying one of the N & V interpretations must have some effect on the timing of events in the mind, and this may violate the simultaneity condition of the present theory. Only while the first interpretation remains in the mind does the arrival of the second in the mind result in humor. But if finding the second interpretation is difficult, then the first interpretation may leave the focus of attention before the second is discovered. And if the second interpretation is impossible to find, then obviously this would absolutely interfere with humor appreciation. At the closer end of the comprehension-difficulty spectrum, a joke may be described as too easy to laugh at just when the first interpretation isn't sufficiently convincing, just as a repetition of a joke often elicits less of a response because the end is known at the beginning.12 If the first interpretation isn't kept in the mind, such as when the second comes to dominate the interpretation in such cases, humor cannot be elicited, according to the present theory.
Thus, instead of postulating the effect of comprehension difficulty on humor appreciation as an axiom, as do Wyer & Collins (1992), the effect may be derived as an indirect consequence of the present theory, in the context of the timing of mental events in processing of increasing difficulty.