Humor in Slogans: Van Helsing Effect in Second Language Learning

Yen-Hsuan Sung, Shelley Ching-Yu Hsieh


The present paper further extends the studies of Eisend (2009), Takahashi and Inoue (2009), and Kohn, et al. (2011), and applies Krishnan & Chakravarti’s (2003) experiment design to examine: 1) whether humor in slogans enhances L2 learners’ memory of the promoted items in advertisements; 2) will Vampire Effect occur in humorous slogans and distract L2 learners’ focus so much that they cannot pay attention to the importance of the promoted item itself? And, 3) is gender a distinguishing feature in terms of the acceptance and sensitivity to the humor in slogans? One pretest, two experiments and one post-test were conducted in this study. In the experiments, the participants’ immediate responses to the questions and their memory of the promoted products and candidates were vital. A follow up face-to-face interview was then conducted. It was found that L2 learners’ familiarity with the promoted items was more important than the level of humor in the slogans. That is, instead of the Vampire Effect, in which the degree of funniness is so high that it overwhelms the significance of the item promoted, the Van Helsing Effect, in which L2 learners’ previous experience is more influential in the process of recognizing the slogans and the promoted items, appears.


Humor, Slogan, Memory, Vampire effect, Van Helsing effect, L2 learners

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