Date of Degree

9-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Psychology

Advisor

Peggilee Wupperman

Committee Members

Andrew Shiva

William Gottdiener

David Klemanski

Maren Westphal

Subject Categories

Clinical Psychology | Psychology

Keywords

emotion regulation, humor, humor styles, adaptive, maladaptive

Abstract

Humor is widely believed to be an adaptive method of regulating emotions; however, the empirical literature remains inconclusive. One potential explanation for inconsistent results is that humor may be a multidimensional construct. Correlational research suggests that “adaptive” humor styles (Self-Enhancing and Affiliative) are more beneficial than “maladaptive” humor styles (Self-Defeating and Aggressive). The current study examined the effects of humor styles on positive and negative emotion in a sample of 146 young adults. In Part I of the study, participants were 1) randomly assigned to three conditions (adaptive humor, maladaptive humor, and distraction), 2) instructed to write about life events that invoked negative emotions, and 3) instructed to generate humorous responses or engage in a distraction task. Repeated measures ANOVAs showed that the humor tasks resulted in significant changes in positive emotion and negative emotion in the expected directions. Contrary to hypotheses, the humor conditions did not show significantly greater increases in positive emotion or decreases in negative emotion than did the distraction condition. In addition, the adaptive humor condition did not show significantly greater increases in positive emotion or decreases in negative emotion than did the maladaptive humor condition. Part II of the study addressed the lack of research comparing humor styles with established emotion-regulation measures. As predicted, participants who endorsed more adaptive forms of humor reported significantly less difficulties in emotion regulation, and participants who endorsed more maladaptive forms of humor reported significantly more difficulties in emotion regulation. These findings provide preliminary contributions to the understanding of humor’s role as an emotion regulatory strategy.

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