Emerging Scholars: Humor Styles and Well-Being


Raymond_THey Everyone!

First off, random humorous clip of the month. As a stressed undergrad, I often turned to this clip and others like it for some stress relief.

I am excited to give you some more background on my project and some of the work that has influenced our study.

Much of the research regarding humor and well-being has focused on our response to humorous stimuli and our own humor styles. This research generally supports a couple ideas: humor seems to be related to less stress, depression, and anxiety. Viewing a humorous movie seems to help distract someone from difficult feelings, and, in the short-term, boost people’s affect. Similarly, one’s humor style (four will be detailed in a moment) may be related to increased or decreased symptoms of depression. Generally, this research indicates that humor may be an important regulatory factor of human emotion and may be an individual strength in people that can be fostered in order to buffer against negative mental health outcomes.

I personally am most interested in how people use humor, why they deploy the humor that they use, and how it may influence risk and resilience for/against mental health concerns. The majority of current research regarding humor use discuss and individual’s humor style. The four prominent ones are discussed below, two being more positive and two more negative:

Affiliative Humor (+): Humor used to facilitate/strengthen social bonds and ease interpersonal tensions

Self-enhancing Humor (+): Humor use to cope with life stress and facilitate a positive, humorous outlook on life

Aggressive Humor (-): Humor use to disparage and cut down others. This humor style also entails the use of jarring humor that may include racist and sexist undertones.

Self-defeating Humor (-): The excessive use of self-disparaging humor to both amuse others and avoid distress. This humor style entails using jokes regarding one’s perceived flaws and weaknesses.

Here is a website with a little more about these humor styles as well as some great references including work from both of my Emerging Scholars mentors:


Generally, an affiliative or self-enhancing humor style has been related to lower symptoms of depression whereas a self-defeating humor style is related to elevate depressive symptoms. Work in our lab demonstrates that an affiliative humor style may buffer the impact prominent interpersonal predictors of suicide have on levels of suicidal thinking. On the other hand, a self-defeating humor style may exacerbate the effect these predictors have on suicidal thinking. Here is a quick interview about this study:


Similarly, we have found that a ruminative cognitive style (consistently thinking about the causes and consequences of current stressors) may encourage the use of self-defeating humor and thus increase suicidal thinking. Here is a presentation of this paper I gave in February of this year:

It is my hope that my Emerging Scholars project will help contribute to this growing body of humor styles literature by investigating how the content of humor may be important when coping with feelings of sadness. I am particularly interested in whether the use of distress-focused humor or distracting humor may be more protective against symptoms of depression and suicidal thinking in college students. We are conceptualizing distress-focused humor as joke telling with others regarding feelings of sadness and what is driving these feelings of sadness. Distracting humor on the other hand includes using humor that is unrelated to feelings of sadness or what is making someone sad.

In my next blog post, I will include some video clips and vignettes of these two humor styles as well as some more information regarding the method of the study. We recently received suggested edits to our IRB application and hope to begin data collection as early as the end of the month. I will have much more to report next month!

Thank you for stopping by!