Humor styles

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Humor styles are a topic of research in the field of personality psychology related to the ways in which individuals differ in their use of humor in everyday life. There are so many different styles and forms of humor that researchers don’t have specific information on how each one of them works. There are many factors like culture, age, political orientation, and many other factors play a role in what people find humoristic[1] People of all ages and backgrounds engage in humor, but the way they use it can vary greatly. From its most lighthearted forms like a funny fact or a joke about dogs. To its more absurd ones, like a video of someone talking in a funny voice or a person falling while riding a bike. Although humor styles can vary slightly depending on the situation, they tend to be a relatively stable personality characteristic among individuals. That is, individuals are fairly consistent in the ways they use humor over time.[2]Humor can play an instrumental role in forming social bonds like attracting a mate, and releasing tension especially under stress.[3]

The Humor Styles Questionnaire (HSQ) has emerged as a robust model for understanding the individual differences in humor styles. Humor can be used to enhance the self or enhance one's relationship with others. Humor can be relatively benevolent or potentially detrimental (either to the self or others).[4] The combination of these factors creates four distinct humor styles: affiliative, self-enhancing, aggressive, and self-defeating. Some styles of humor promote health and well-being, while other styles can be potentially detrimental to mental and physical health.[2] There are other humor scale surveys that are used to measure different aspects of humor such as: The Situational Humor Response Questionnaire, The Coping Humor Scale, The Sense of Humor Questionnaire, and The Multidimensional Sense of Humor Scale. However, these surveys don't take into calculation the way humor is used in everyday situations like the Humor Styles Questionnaire does.[5]


The Sense of Humor Questionnaire[edit]

The Sense of Humor Questionnaire was proposed by Sven Svebak in 1974.[6] The original Sense of Humor Questionnaire was 22 items broken into three categories that could be answered on a scale of 1-4. The three categories are: M-items (reactive to humor and implicit messages), L-items (attitude towards humorous people and situations), E-items (openness to expression of amusement). An example of each type of item is: when I go to the movies I prefer to know ahead what type of story it is (M-item), fun is aimed at hurting another (L-item), do you ever laugh so hard it hurts? (E-item). M-items and L-items use the same scale prompts, 1 = total agreement, 4 = total disagreement, whereas E-items use 1 = very seldom, 4 = very often. However, the some of the items could overlap and fit into another group of items but despite the dimensionality problem, the scores correlated moderately positively to each other (r = .29 to .38). The Sense of Humor Questionnaire was revised and included items on each sub-scale that evaluate more in-depth of each group. The revised version of the Sense of Humor Questionnaire M and L-items have strong internal consistency (.60’s and .70’s) but E-items have poor internal consistency. Due to poor internal consistency, E-items were not used in further studies, but M-items were used for the Situation Humor Response and L-items were used for the Humor Coping Scale.

The Coping Humor Scale[edit]

The Coping Humor Scale was created by Rod A. Martin and Herbert M. Lefcourt in 1983. The Coping Humor Scale is a survey of 7 items that assesses how much participants use humor to cope with stress.[7] The responses on the survey are on a 1-4 scale, strongly disagree (1) to strongly agree (4). The alphas range from .60 to .70 and the test-retest reliability of 12 weeks alpha is .80. While the Coping Humor Scale doesn't have as high of an internal consistency as the Situational Humor Response Questionnaire, it is unique in the "self-observer agreement." The way participants rate themselves is strongly correlated with how their friends rate them on similar content.[8]

The Situational Humor Response Questionnaire[edit]

The Situational Humor Response Questionnaire was created by Martin and Lefcourt in 1984.[9] It is based on Eysenck's definition of humor and is a survey composed of 18 different situations that are on a scale from everyday events to events that are anxiety inducing and 3 non-situational items. The three non-situational items are: how desirable it is to the participant to have friends that are easily amused, how much a participants' humor changes depending on the situation, and a self-rating question about how likely the participant is to laugh in different situations. In regard to the Situational Humor Response Questionnaire, humor is defined as how often and individual smiles, laughs, or shows amusement but ignores the type of humor used. The responses to the survey are on a 1-5 scale, I would not have been particularly amused (1) to I would have laughed heartily (5). The Situational Humor Response Questionnaire was tested on almost 500 participants in four groups and has alpha coefficients from .70 to .83. Of the participants, 33 were tested again a month later to examine the test-retest reliability which has an alpha of 0.70. The Situational Humor Response Questionnaire was compared to the Crowne-Marlowe (1960) Social Desirability Scale but had only .04 correlation meaning the Situational Humor Response Questionnaire is free from the bias of social desirability.

The Multidimensional Sense of Humor Scale[edit]

The Multidimensional Sense of Humor Scale was created by James A. Thorson and F. C. Powell in 1991 and combines elements from the Situational Humor Response Questionnaire, the Coping Humor Scale, and the Sense of Humor Questionnaire.[10] It was created to assess the different elements of sense humor such as playfulness, humorous ability, recognition and appreciation of humor, and using humor to achieve social goals or as a coping mechanism. The Multidimensional Sense of Humor Scale is composed of 124 statements with responses on a scale of 1-5. 1 = strongly disagree, 5 = strongly agree. The 124 statements were reduced to 29 with an alpha reliability of .92. The remaining statements are broken into four factors. Factor 1 combines humor production humor for social uses, Factor 2 combines coping humor and adaptive humor, Factor 3 evaluates humor appreciation, and Factor 4 evaluates the participants attitude on humor. Some examples of statements on the Multidimensional Sense of Humor Scale respective to the factors are: I use humor to entertain my friends, uses of humor help me master difficult situations, I like a good joke, and people who tell jokes are a pain in the neck.

The Humor Styles Questionnaire (HSQ)[edit]

The Humor Styles Questionnaire (HSQ) was developed by Rod Martin and Patricia Doris (2003) to measure individual differences in styles of humor.[4] Humor has been shown to be a personality characteristic that remains relatively stable over time.[2] Humor is sometimes viewed as a one-dimensional trait. However, individuals seem to differ in the ways in which they use humor in their everyday lives, and different styles of humor seem to have different outcomes. As a result, two variables are measured within the questionnaire to cover multiple dimensions that humor contain. The Humor Styles Questionnaire was developed to identify the ways in which individuals differ in humor styles and how these differences influence health, well-being, relationships, and other outcomes.[11]

The Humor Styles Questionnaire is a 32-item self-report inventory used to identify how individuals use humor in their lives. Participants respond to the degree to which they agree with each statement (e.g., "I enjoy making people laugh") on a scale from 1 (totally disagree) to 7 (totally agree). The questionnaire measures two main factors in humor. The first factor measures whether humor is used to enhance the self or enhance one's relationships with others. The second factor measures whether the humor is relatively benevolent or potentially detrimental and destructive. The combination of these factors creates four distinct humor styles: affiliative, self-enhancing, aggressive, and self-defeating.[11]

The reliability of the Humor Style Questionnaire is questionable. The original questionnaire was written in German and due to inexact translations and cultural differences, when translated to another language it frequently generates test items that don’t produce anticipated results.[12] When the HSQ is given in the original language, the test for internal consistencies was an alpha over 0.77 for all items. However, when translated, the internal consistency alpha varied from .55 (aggressive) to .89 (self-enhancing) in one study, Taher et al. (2008), and from .67 (self-defeating) to .78 (self-enhancing) in another study, Bilge and Saltuk (2007). While most of the styles tested reasonably well, the aggressive humor scale produced the lowest internal consistency values.[13]

Affiliative humor[edit]

Affiliative humor is defined as the style of humor used to enhance one's relationships with others in a benevolent, positive manner. This style of humor is typically used in a benevolent, self-accepting way. Individuals high in this dimension often use humor as a way to charm and amuse others, ease tension among others, and improve relationships. They are often spontaneous in their joke telling, frequently participate in witty banter, and enjoy laughing with others. Affiliative humor is similar to self-defeating humor because both styles of humor enhance the relationships with others. However, unlike self-defeating humor, affiliative humor is not used at one's own expense.[4]

A number of outcomes are associated with the use of affiliative humor. Individuals who report high levels of affiliative humor are more likely to initiate friendships.[14] In an organizational setting, affiliative humor has been shown to increase group cohesiveness and promote creativity in the workplace.[15] Affiliative humor is also associated with increased levels of (explicit) self-esteem, psychological well-being, emotional stability, and social intimacy. They are also more likely to exhibit higher levels of implicit self-esteem (independently of their level of explicit self-esteem).[16]

This style of humor is associated with decreased levels of depressive symptoms[17] and anxiety. Individuals who use affiliative humor tend to have higher levels of extraversion and openness to experience as personality characteristics.[4]

Examples of items targeting affiliative humor on the HSQ include:

  • I don't often joke around with my friends. (reversed)
  • I rarely make other people laugh by telling funny stories about myself. (reversed)

Self-enhancing humor[edit]

Self-enhancing humor is a style of humor related to having a good-natured attitude toward life, having the ability to laugh at yourself, your circumstances and the idiosyncrasies of life in constructive, non-detrimental manner. It is used by individuals to enhance the self in a benevolent, positive manner.[4] This type of humor is best understood as a type of coping or emotion-regulating humor in which individuals use humor to look on the bright side of a bad situation, find the silver lining or maintain a positive attitude even in trying times.[18]

Self-enhancing humor is associated with a number of personality variables as well as psychological, physical and health-related outcomes. Individuals who engage more in the self-enhancing humor style are less likely to exhibit depressive symptoms.[17] In an organizational setting, self-enhancing humor has been shown to promote creativity and reduce stress in the workplace.[15] The self-enhancing style of humor has also been shown to be related to increased levels of self-esteem, optimism, and psychological well-being, as well as decreased levels of depression and anxiety. Individuals who use the self-enhancing humor style are more likely to exhibit extraversion and openness to experience as personality characteristics and less likely to exhibit neuroticism.[4]

Examples of self-enhancing humor on the HSQ include:

  • If I am feeling upset or unhappy I usually try to think of something funny about the situation to make myself feel better.
  • Even when I’m by myself, I’m often amused by the absurdities of life.

Aggressive humor[edit]

Aggressive humor is a style of humor that is potentially detrimental towards others. This type of humor is characterized by the use of sarcasm, put-downs, teasing, criticism, ridicule, and other types of humor used at the expense of others. Aggressive humor often disregards the impact it might have on others. Prejudices such as racism and sexism are considered to be the aggressive style of humor. This type of humor may at times seem like playful fun, but sometimes the underlying intent is to harm or belittle others. Aggressive humor is related to higher levels of neuroticism and lower levels of agreeableness and conscientiousness.[4]

Individuals who exhibit higher levels of aggressive humor tend to score higher on measures of hostility and general aggression. Males tend to use aggressive humor more often than women.[4]

Examples of aggressive humor on the HSQ might include:

  • When telling jokes or saying funny things, I am usually not very concerned about how other people are taking it.
  • People are never offended or hurt by my sense of humor. (reversed)
  • If you think people are laughing at you, they probably are.

Self-defeating humor[edit]

Self-defeating humor is the style of humor characterized by the use of potentially detrimental humor towards the self in order to gain approval from others. Individuals high in this dimension engage in self-disparaging humor in which laughter is often at their own expense. Self-defeating humor often comes in the form of pleasing others by being the "butt" of the joke. This style of humor is sometimes seen as a form of denial in which humor is used as a defense mechanism for hiding negative feelings about the self.[4]

A variety of variables are associated with self-defeating humor. Individuals who more frequently use self-defeating humor show increased depressive symptoms.[17] Individuals who use this style of humor tend to have higher levels of neuroticism and lower levels of agreeableness and conscientiousness. Self-defeating humor is associated with higher levels of depression, anxiety and psychiatric symptoms. It is also associated with lower levels of self-esteem, psychological well-being and intimacy.

Examples of self-defeating items on the Humor Styles Questionnaire might include:

  • I often try to make people like or accept me more by saying something funny about my own weaknesses, blunders, or faults.
  • If I am having problems or feeling unhappy, I often cover it up by joking around, so that even my closest friends don’t know how I really feel.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Sabato, Giovanni. "What’s So Funny? The Science of Why We Laugh". Scientific American. Retrieved 2020-11-19.
  2. ^ a b c Willibald, Ruch (1998). Explorations of a Personality Characteristic. DE GRUYTER MOUTON. pp. 159–178. ISBN 9783110804607.
  3. ^ Sabato, Giovanni. "What’s So Funny? The Science of Why We Laugh". Scientific American. Retrieved 2020-12-02.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Martin, Rod; Patricia Puhlik-Doris; Gwen Larsen; Jeanette Gray; Kelly Weir (February 2003). "Individual differences in uses of humor and their relation to psychological well-being: Development of the Humor Styles Questionnaire". Journal of Research in Personality. 37 (1): 48–75. doi:10.1016/S0092-6566(02)00534-2.
  5. ^ Martin, Rod A.; Lefcourt, Herbert M. (1984). "Situational Humor Response Questionnaire: Quantitative measure of sense of humor". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 47 (1): 145–155. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.47.1.145. ISSN 0022-3514.
  6. ^ Svebak, Sven (2010-08-30). "The Sense of Humor Questionnaire: Conceptualization and Review of 40 Years of Findings in Empirical Research". Europe's Journal of Psychology. 6 (3): 288–310. doi:10.5964/ejop.v6i3.218. ISSN 1841-0413.
  7. ^ Chen, Guo-Hai; Martin, Rod A. (2007-08-21). "A comparison of humor styles, coping humor, and mental health between Chinese and Canadian university students". Humor. 20 (3): 215–234. doi:10.1515/HUMOR.2007.011. ISSN 1613-3722.
  8. ^ Martin, Rod A. (1996). "The Situational Humor Response Questionnaire (SHRQ) and Coping Humor Scale (CHS): A decade of research findings". Humor - International Journal of Humor Research. 9 (3–4). doi:10.1515/humr.1996.9.3-4.251.
  9. ^ Martin, Rod; Lefcourt, Herbert (1984-07-01). "Situational Humor Response Questionnaire: Quantitative measure of sense of humor". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 47: 145–155. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.47.1.145.
  10. ^ Thorson, James A.; Powell, F. C. (1993). "The Development and Validation of a Multidimensional Sense of Humor Scale". Journal of Clinical Psychology. 49 (1): 13–23. doi:10.1002/1097-4679(199301)49:1<13::AID-JCLP2270490103>3.0.CO;2-S. PMID 8425929.
  11. ^ a b Martin, Rod. "Humor Styles Questionnaire". Archived from the original on 16 April 2012. Retrieved 12 April 2012.
  12. ^ Ruch, Willibald; Heintz, Sonja (2016-08-19). "The German Version of the Humor Styles Questionnaire: Psychometric Properties and Overlap With Other Styles of Humor". Europe's Journal of Psychology. 12 (3): 434–455. doi:10.5964/ejop.v12i3.1116. ISSN 1841-0413. PMC 4991050. PMID 27547259.
  13. ^ Ruch, Willibald; Heintz, Sonja (2016-08-19). "The German Version of the Humor Styles Questionnaire: Psychometric Properties and Overlap With Other Styles of Humor". Europe's Journal of Psychology. 12 (3): 434–455. doi:10.5964/ejop.v12i3.1116. ISSN 1841-0413. PMC 4991050. PMID 27547259.
  14. ^ Yip, Jeremy; Rod Martin (December 2006). "Sense of humor, emotional intelligence, and social competence". Journal of Research in Personality. 40 (6): 1202–1208. doi:10.1016/j.jrp.2005.08.005.
  15. ^ a b Romero, Eric; Kevin Cruthirds (May 2006). "The Use of Humor in the Workplace". Academy of Management Perspectives. 20 (2): 58–69. doi:10.5465/amp.2006.20591005.
  16. ^ Stieger, Stefan; Formann, Anton K.; Burger, Christoph (2011). "Humor styles and their relationship to explicit and implicit self-esteem". Personality and Individual Differences. Elsevier. 50 (5): 747–750. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2010.11.025.
  17. ^ a b c Frewen, Paul; Jaylene Brinker; Rod Martin; David Dozois (2008). "Humor styles and personality-vulnerability to depression". Humor. 21 (2): 179–195. doi:10.1515/humor.2008.009.
  18. ^ Martin, Rod (July 2001). "Humor, laughter, and physical health: Methodological issues and research findings". Psychological Bulletin. 127 (4): 504–519. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.127.4.504. PMID 11439709.