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HUMOR CREATION'S VARYING IMPACT ON MOOD BY SAM UEL HOAR A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Social Sciences New College of Florida in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of the Arts Under the sponsorship of Dr. Steven Graham Sarasota, Florida May, 2013
ii To the clown. As I stumble through this life, help me to create more laughter than tears, dispense more cheer than gloom, spread more cheer than despair. Never let me become s o indifferent, that I wi ll fail to see the wonders in the eyes of a child, or the twinkle in the eyes of the aged. Never let me forget that my total effort is to cheer people, make them happy, and forget momentarily, all the unpleasantness in their lives. And in my final moment may I hear You whisper: "When you made My people smile, you made Me smile."
iii Acknowledgements First, I'd like to thank each and every person who has helped me through everything. Everything ever. Especially this thesis, though This thing was killer. And I couldn't have done it without you all. All my thanks to my wonderful and supportive parents and family. You are incredible, and your love means the world to me. Thank you so very much for your tremendous support. Thank you so much to my second home, my second family, MJ and Ben. I can't really describe how much you've done for me. More than one thing, for sure. Your love and support mean the moon to me. Thanks to my brilliant committee Dr. Harley and Dr. Cottrell and spo nsor, Dr. Graham You r infinite patience and insight really helped make this happen. N ew College, you're great. Good j ob.
iv Table of Contents I. Preface I. Table of Contents iv II. Abstract v II. Introduction 1 III. Literature Review 1 I. Humor 1 II. Arousal Theory of Humor 2 III. In congruity Theory of Humor 5 IV. Humor and Coping 9 V. Differences in Humor 15 VI. The Current Study 18 IV. Methods Section 20 I. Participants 20 II. Materials and Procedur e 20 V. Results 2 3 VI. Discussion 24 VII. References 27 VIII. Appendices 31
v Humor Creation's Varying Impact on Mood By Samuel Hoar New College of Florida, 2013 ABSTRACT Seeking to examine the effect of humor's impact on mood, this study had participants create a humorous caption for a cartoon utilizing affiliative, self enhancing, self de feating, or aggressive humor, as well as a control condition in which they simply created a non humorous caption. Comparing the differences in positive and negative affect before and after this task, no differences were found between the groups. This may s upport cognitive reappraisal as a mechanism by which humor can be used for emotion management. Limitations and possible ways to refine the methods are discussed. ___________________________ Professor Steven Graham Division of S ocial Sciences
Ru nning head: HUMOR CREATION IMPACT 1 Humor Creation's Varying Impact on Mood "Life doesn't make any sense, and we all pretend it does. Comedy's job is to point out that it doesn't make sense, and that it doesn't make much difference anyway." Eric Idle, of Monty Python fame, ha s this to say about humor. It is indicative of the difficulties one finds when attempting to define humor, the intangibility of defining something that relies on incongruity itself. It is representative of perhaps the most widely accepted defining c haracteristic of humor: something which "involves an idea, image, text, or event that is in some sense incongruous, odd, unusual, unexpected, or out of the ordinary" (Martin, 2007). In addition to this, it seems the appraisal of the stimulus involved must also allow one to experience it for some time span as innocuous, allowing for some degree of playfulness or safety to be achieved. These seem to be essential characteristics of something for it to be considered humorous; that it must include some degree of incongruousness or unexpectedness, and some degree of playfulness or safety (Gervais & Wilson, 2005). Humor P hilosophical and psychological humor theories have shaped how the field has been investigated. As early as Aristot le's Poetics humor was described as a way of asserting superiority, brought about by witnessing those one might consider to be somehow deformed or lesser in compared to oneself. That is, humor was characterized as an aggressive act of laughing in order to assert that one is not suffering from the perceived deformities, and is superior due to this. Aristotle, in this framework, appeared to qualify humor in a negative sense. I n the 17 th century Thomas Hobbes continued this notion that laughter arises from a feeling of superiority over another.
HUMOR CREATION IMPACT 2 Influenced by th ese ideas early eighteenth century Europe saw use of the word ridicule similarly to how the word humor is used today, but with a more negative connotation attached (Martin, 2007). Ridicule was the use of wit and cleverness in order to directly attack others as in to lessen them by making them laughable. Strong employment of ridicule became an acceptable form of entertainment used at social gatherings. As this concept of ridicule became more and more socially acceptable and viewed as playful and entertaining as opposed to directly aggressive, the aggressive, superiority asserting connotation became less prevalent than the conception of ridicule as an act of playing with an d connecting ide as in interesting ways. This social evolution brought the term ridicule more aligned with the popular conception of humor today: theories of superiority began to lead, in the 19 th century, to theories of humor revolving around the use of incongruities. Thi s transition was facilitated by the emphasis put on kindness and civility, and general humanitarianism, in 18 th century British society. Th is saw laughter and its means shift into a more sympathetic, positive light. In turn the word humor became represent ative of this more benevolent conception, quite similar to the popular understanding and use of humor today (Martin, 2007). Arousal Theory of Humor In the early 20 th century, the psychoanalytic perspective, specifically Freud (1928) discussed humor a s a mechanism, ending in laughter, to release built up nervous or psychic energy, particularly those energies built up by unexpressed sexual and aggressive impulses. Similarly, arousal theories of humor have asserted that a humor response, or laughter, is a release of psychological tension (arousal). This perspective addresses cognitive and emotional components of humor.
HUMOR CREATION IMPACT 3 In an experiment investigating arousal's connection to humor, four 90 minute films on four consecutive days were shown to 20 healthy female office clerks (Levi, 1965) The films were: an emotionally neutral, "but not boring," compilation of nature scenery, an agitating and tragic film Paths of Glory" by Stanley Kubrick, an amusing comedy "Charley's Aunt," and a gruesome ghost story "The Devil's Mask." Participants gave feedback indicating that the films successfully evoked the intended reaction from them (i.e. fear while watching "The D evil's Mask"). Participant s urine was sampled and levels of epinephrine and norepinephrine were measured. It was found that each of the emotionally arousing films caused significant and similar increases in participant s level of both hormones, ind icating increased activation of the sympathetic nervous system and arousal, while the emotionally neutral film caused the levels of these hormones to drop. Observing humorous, fear inducing, and sorrowful stimuli all seemed to elevate participant's arousal levels similarly. As such, this study seems to contradict arousal theories which indicate humor causes relief; experiencing humor instead appeared to cause an increase in biological arousal similar to experiencing other emotions. Similarly, a study exami ned whether and how levels of excitation, or arousal, experienced before humorous stimuli, would influence the rating of funniness or humor appreciation of the stimuli by pa rticipants. One hundred twenty u niversity students were randomly assigned to one of four conditions in a 2x2 design, of which the factors were high and low hedonic tones, as well as high and low levels of excitatory potential. The stimuli for these conditions consisted of written excerpts. For example, the negative hedonic, low excitatio n condition was an article from Newsweek which discussed "the adverse effect snowmobiles are having on the ecology and serenity of the American
HUMOR CREATION IMPACT 4 countryside during winter." Participants rated how pleasant they found the written excerpts on a bipolar scale f rom 100, being extremely unpleasant to 100, being extremely pleasant. Participants also rated the level of arousal from 0, being not at all arousing, to 100, being extremely arousing. Participants, while told this was a separate project, then rated their level of humor appreciation, or how funny they found, a series of cartoons and jokes on a scale from 0, being not funny at all to 100, being extremely funny. Participants in the high arousal condition rated the cartoons and jokes as significantly funnier t han those in the low arousal condition, in both high and low hedonic conditions (Cantor, Bryant, & Zillmann, 1974). These results seem to indicate that high levels of arousal will increase humor appreciation, whether from a positive or negative stimuli. T hat is, if one is in a state of high arousal due to fear, experiencing something they find humorous will invoke more of a laugh or humor response from them. The author's discuss that this may be due to excitation transfer, that a person's response to humor "may be influenced by his excitatory state deriving from immediately prior experiences" (Cantor, Bryant, & Zillmann, 1974). This may be due to misattribution of the arousal state, such that a person might be highly aroused from one stimulus but then exper ience a stimulus they recognize as arousing and believe their high state of arousal is due to the latter, not expecting arousal from one stimulus to affect the emotional response from another (Cantor, Bryant, & Zillmann, 1974). These studies, and oth ers like them, have approached humor from this arousal perspective and demonstrated some ways in which cognitive arousal may impact the emotional component, or perception thereof, within the realm of humor. They have
HUMOR CREATION IMPACT 5 shown evidence, both biologically and v ia self report, that humor is associated with an increase in arousal They also found that increases in arousal can in turn affect appreciation of humor, such that more arousal will lead to more perceived funniness (which in turn may lead to higher arous al). Incongruity Theory of Humor The incongruity theory or approach to humor is an attempt to pinpoint the cognitive mechanism by which humor is perceived, and thus a laughter response is achieved, by looking at what seems to be the basic buildin g block of jokes. Oxford d ictionary defines incongruous as "not in harmony or keeping with the surroundings or other aspects of something." Simply, something is incongruous if it is somehow surprising or strange, given what one knows, perceives, or expects about i t. This perspective says that recognition and resolution of incongruities are the basis of humor perception. Arthur Koestler (1964) referred to this cognitive process in his publication The Art of Creation generalized to also refer to its involvement betw een most creative acts (i.e. artistic, scientific) as bisociation. Bisociation refers to when something is perceived in two distinct, seemingly unrelated, fra mes of reference simultaneously. This allows for previously unrelated frameworks and ideas to beco me related in unexpected ways. George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty Four (1949) references a similar term in doublethink a word in the novel used to describe holding two contrasting conceptions of the same idea, such as people in the novel both manipulat ing information and then also believing that manipulated information as the truth. The important difference to note between this concept of doublethink and incongruity is that doublethink as seen above,
HUMOR CREATION IMPACT 6 refers explicitly to holding highly contradictory id eas at the same time. An example of this in the book is how certain people s jobs were to falsify documents, and then believe these documents to be real. This is in contrast to a perception of incongruity referred to in humor, which while connecting elemen ts in new or unexpected ways, will not generally be based upon frameworks which are not in some way compatible. I t has been hypothesized that not just the act of recognizing incongruities, but the act of eventually achieving comprehension of the connectivity of ideas, when presented with concepts which appear at first incongruous, is the cognitive process which creates a humor response. This model refers to an incongruity resolution perspective, where a perceiver meets with an incongruity, and is then motivated to resolve it with prior knowledge and/or knowledge garnered from the incongruity. The resolution of the incongruity, or the punch line of the joke, completes the connection of the incongruous ideas, the perceiver "gets" the joke, and that is when a humor response occurs (McGhee and Goldstein, 1983). A two stage model for this, created by Suls (1972) involves the following steps. First, the joke is set up, after which the perceiver has expectations for the outcome. If the ending is as they predicted, then no surprise and no humor response will occur. If their predictions are not met, then they experience surprise, following which they attempt to find the rule or justification by which the ending or punch line connects to the previous conten t. If such a rule is found, they experience laughter and perceive it as humorous, and if it is not, then they experience puzzlement.
HUMOR CREATION IMPACT 7 This can be illustrated with the following joke found in the popular television comedy series Parks and Recreation (2005), as said by the character Old Gus on his retirement day: Well I've been listening to your boring speeches for the last 50 years. And now it's time for you to listen to one of mine. You know a day like this makes a man reflect upon his life. And I've come t o the conclusion that I've completely wasted mine. And just for the record, I never ever liked being called "Old Gus." I didn't understand it when I was in my 20s and I sure hate it now. Here, a joke is set up and then a punch line is delivered. Applying Suls (1972) model of incongruity resolution, we first see that Old Gus is established to have been working with the people he is in discourse with for the past 50 years, a long time. This discourse also presents to us the idea of a celebration of an extend ed commitment, that his co workers are celebrating his retirement, a generally jovial occasion. This is the setup, and with our foreknowledge of the situation created from others referring to him as Old Gus, a prediction arises from this setup. That is, i t is a safe assumption to make that his coworkers began referring to him as Old Gus some time during this long period of work, perhaps because of his longevity at this work place, as a term of endearment. Additionally, the setup establishes the character a s having a general disdain for the nickname. A common prediction of the cause of this might be that the character doesn't like being called old. Then, the statement incongruous with this prediction, the punch line, occurs when the character reveals that th eir disdain for the nick name had started when it was first assigned to him in his 20s. This is surprisingly different than previous assumptions about the name, and so we seek a rule which allows for such a punch line to take place. R ealizing that the disda in the character demonstrates during a typically happy occasion and towards what might seem like an endearing name
HUMOR CREATION IMPACT 8 is a result of his co workers actually referring to him as Old Gus from an early age, possibly since the beginning of his work career. In sho rt, we predicted that the nickname Old Gus was related to his age and retirement, and that his dislike of it was also due to this, when in fact the name had been assigned to him from a surprisingly early age. Due to discovering this rule, that his dislike and the name itself stems from when he was young, we laugh at the result. Forabosco (1992) in a review of cognitive aspects of humor including incongruity, discussed th e observation that the resolution of incongruities may lead to other incongruities to arise In the above example, the punch line may make a listener ponder the incongruity of the character receiving the nickname "Old Gus" in his 20s. Additionally, Forabosco indicated that resolving (or finding the rule of) the incongruit ies between punch line and setup does not completely eliminate these incongruities. Instead, the incongruities are made congruent in their own context, fit somehow, or are made to be "congruently incongruent." This may even be a necessary aspect of somethi ng to retain its humor, meaning that if an attempt at a joke is completely resolved and fits together perfectly after the punch line or explanation is delivered, then it won't create a humorous response (Forabsoco, 1992). This corresponds to a schema base d conception of humor recognition, in which humor is the elicited response when two schemas are active at the same time in order to understand the same event, only when the second is of less importance than the first activated schema. Humor, then, is a res ult of reinterpreting something as less serious after first assigning it greater importance (Wyer & Collins, 1992).
HUMOR CREATION IMPACT 9 In an attempt to demonstrate incongruity eliciting a humorous response without the need for resolution of that incongruity (contrasting the above incongruity resolution model), a study was conducted in which participants lifted several identical looking weights and compared the weight of these to a standard reference weight. After lifting several of these, of varying but similar weight, a weig ht of 50 g or 3000 g, which is significantly heavier or lighter than the standard, was presented to them. It was found that participants, upon lifting this very light or very heavy weight, displayed more of a humor response the more the weight differed fro m the mean of the previously experienced weights. The larger the incongruity presented, or the larger the difference between the expectation of the weight and the weight of the stimulus, the more smiling and laughter was evoked from participants (Nerhardt 1970). This not only demonstrated that larger incongruities might elicit greater humor responses, but also that an incongruity itself may be enough to elicit such a humor response, as seen by the immediate humor response from these individuals. Humor and Coping Some research has examined the use of humor in coping with highly adverse circumstances. A study of bereavement conducted by Bonanno and Keltner (1997) which interviewed men and women whose spouse had died six months earlier, examined longitudinal differences in participant's ability to cope. Thirty eight participants w ere randomly selected from responses to advertisements in various institutions. Participants were screened via a telephone interview, and had to have been between the ages of 21 and 55, married or living with their deceased partner for at least three years and not have experienced severe mental or physical disorders such as alcohol abuse during that time
HUMOR CREATION IMPACT 10 period. Participant s emotional adjustment and physical health, including factors like depressed mood and emotional numbness, were examined 6, 14, and 25 months after the initial interview. The interview consisted of asking the participant to discuss their relationship with their spouse. The interviews were recorded, and the participants were coded using the Emotional Facial Coding System (EMFACS) for seve ral negative emotions, such as fear and disgust, as well as enjoyment or amusement, by means of identifying displays of Duchenne smiles and Duchenne laughter including open mouthed laughter, respectively. A Duchenne smile is a valid demonstration of mirth way which we can identify (Ekman, Davidson, & Friesen, 1990). Mirth refers to the positive emotion which is a result of perceiving humor. Those participants who showed more mirth in the initial interview continued to report more frequent positive and less negative moods in the follow up measures at 14 and 25 months. Additionally, more frequent expression of mirth was significantly predictive of fewer grief symptoms (while controlling for initial mood during the interview). As such, this study concluded that facial expression of emotion mediated emotions associated with bereavement during these time periods, such that more enjoyment or amusement while discussing their spouse earlier lead to more positive emotions later on. This supported a social functional a ccount of emotional expression, where an emotion will mediate a person's adaptation to their social environment. This includes the expression of emotions, which would inform others around the person experiencing them about these emotions, and influence oth ers' responses, which in turn influence a person's well being and response to traumatic events (Keltner, 1996). Several studies exploring this theory have found that consistent expression of negative emotions
HUMOR CREATION IMPACT 11 is linked with higher stress and health problem s, as well as that the tendency to express more positive emotions is linked with increased personal well being (Bonanno & Keltner, 1997). When analyzing this same data, it was found that participants who had more frequent displays of Duchenne laughter, whe n compared to non Duchenne laughter, reported less negative and more positive moods. They also demonstrated a larger dissociation between verbal reports of autonomic arousal and distress. This may indicate that expressing mirth may allow a person to more s trongly dissociate from negative emotions. Previous research indicates that dissociating from these emotions in this way results in a greater ability to recover from these negative emotions (Bonanno et al., 1995). This may indicate that participants, who w ere initially able to cognitively appraise their relationship with their spouse in a more positive light recently after their death as seen by the mirth responses in the initial interview were able to maintain this more positive affect over a long period of time. As such, positive humorous appraisal may be an effective longitudinal method for coping with bereavement or other highly impactful situations. A qualitative study, conducted by Henman (2001) involved the conduction of interviews with 60 Americans who had been prisoners of war in Vietnam (VPOW). This was an in depth look at individuals who had been in captivity for over seven years and suffered from starvation, torture, and isolation. These VPOWs suffered f rom little to no mental illness, in contrast to other prisoner groups for whom time spent after repatriation has historically been more difficult. Compared to t he general population, the VPOW s
HUMOR CREATION IMPACT 12 showed no higher rate of diagnosis of PTSD (Nice, Garland, Hilt on, Bagget, & Mitchell, 1996). Additionally, there were differences in the training received and general personality differences which the VPOWs had, compared to other long term prisoner groups. They were largely college educated, over the age of 21, and trained in aviation (Henman, 2001). They also volunteered for this position having foreknowledge of the possibility of capture. A majority of the VPOWs received some survival and POW training (Hubbell, 1976). The Chief of Psychology for the Air Force Survi val School, Jim Mitchell, has said in regards to humor that "If persons are in high stress, high risk, situations, then the capacity to generate humor to jump start their immune system will certainly influence their susceptibility to disease" (Henman, 200 1). Also emphasizing this particular group's potential use of humor is personality research done on aviators, of which the group consisted entirely of. An "aviator personality" has seen to include a relatively advanced degree of humor utilization (Fine & H artman, 1968). This study looked to examine the high resiliency shown by these individuals and what potential mechanisms caused it, specifically the connections between communication and the VPOW's resiliency. This study was conducted 20 years aft er the repatriation of the VPOW s. It involved over a year of the researcher becoming involved with the Navy's team of researchers and participants, with 50 semi structured informal interviews and 12 structured interviews conducted. The structure of the informal i nterviews touched on experiences of long term prisoners that past research has found while allowing the participants to include their own narra tives without too much guidance. T he structured
HUMOR CREATION IMPACT 13 interview focused on finding meaning, humor, and apathy avoidance the three aspects of communication emphasized in the initial interviews as well as previous data. Among the strategies used for coping emphasized by many of the VPOWs, humor was often noted as quite important. They described it as a way to feel some sor t of control in a dire situation, by making jokes about guards, as well as simply a way to create posi tive emotions within the group (Henman, 2001). The above studies illustrate how humor may have had an effect on people who are dealing with intensely nega tive situations. They also show how humor may serve different functions in order to do this. Those recently bereaved who showed more genuine humorous, mirth responses while discussing their relationship with their spouse may have been better emotionally ad justed later because their humorous appraisal allowed them to dissociate more from negative emotions. The VPOWs seemed to indicate similar uses of humorous appraisal in regards to their derisive joking about the guards and their situation. Th eir reporting of the importance of humor as part of the way they coped as a group together indicates that humor was used additionally to bond with one another, as well as the reporting of creating positive responses from one another showing use of humor as an emotional regulator in such negative circumstances. Strick et al. (2009) investigated a possible mechanism by which humor may regulate negative emotions. In their experiment, they hypothesized that by the virtue of being more cognitively demanding, hum or would alleviate negative affect more than equally positive, non humorous stimuli. This was an application of a working memory model of distraction from negative mood, which hypothesizes that negative moods are maintained by mood congruent
HUMOR CREATION IMPACT 14 thoughts. As such, they consist of limited cognitive resources, and so tasks which take these resources may regulate the negative affect (Van Dillen & Koole, 2007). Additionally, research has indicated that humor requires use of these attentional resources in order to assess the incongruencies it creates (Schmidt, 2002; Strick, Van Baaren, Holland, & Van Knippenberg, 2009). Strick et al. (2009) had participants view either negative or neutral pictures from the IAPS (International Affective Picture System). In between t hese, half of the time a positive stimuli from the IAPS would be shown and half the time a humorous stimuli, a cartoon from the Internet, was shown. Because the cartoons had captions, captions were added to the positive pictures which described their conte nt. Pilot studies with 53 participants were run in order to asses perception of the stimuli, and it was found that while participants rated them as equally positive, the humorous stimuli were rated as more humorous. To asses the cognitive demands of the s timuli, processing time and performance were measured on a task in which participants were told to view and asses a stimulus, before moving on. While they did this, they performed a secondary task of memorizing an eight digit number, and were asked whether a number which appeared after each stimulus was the same as the one before it. Processing time and performance were both lower for the secondary task after the humorous stimuli than the positive stimuli, which have been previously shown to be valid measur es of cognitive demand (Just & Carpenter, 1992). In the negative stimuli trials, Strick et al. (2009) found that participants reported more negative affect in negative trials with the positive stimuli than trials with the humorous stimuli. These results in dicate that, despite being of equal positive affect
HUMOR CREATION IMPACT 15 rating, the humorous stimuli down regulated negative affect more than the positive stimuli. This is a strong example of why humor may be a promising tool for people to use in regulating negative affect. It seems that even more than simply positive stimuli, humor may be beneficial for this regulation. This may be because, as the above study proposes, the perception of humor may be a cognitively demanding task, and regulate the ability of negative thought t o maintain a negative affect through working memory. Thus humor may work, uniquely from other possible positive stimuli, through a mechanism of cognitive distraction, to accomplish its possible affect regulation abilities. In addition to this, as seen abo ve, it appears as though humor may be utilized in different manners which differ among the situations which called for it. This includes the potential for expressing genuine mirth through Duchenne laughter to dissociate from negative emotions, as well as t he potential for the expression of this emotion to lead to better coping by the way it impacts the social environment. Differences in Humor Martin et al. (2003) developed the Hum or Styles Questionnaire (HSQ) which distinguishes between four main dimension s of humor. These dimensions depict distinct uses of humor. Affiliative humor includes the tendency to spontaneously make jokes and use banter in order to facilitate one's relationships and build interpersonal bonds. It often affirms one's self or others. Self enhancing humor refers to one's tendency to use humor to maintain a positive outlook on life, which may involve using humor to deal with negative situations Aggressive humor denotes one's tendency of using humor in a sarcastic, ridiculing, or teasing manner, typically involving putting others down. Self
HUMOR CREATION IMPACT 16 defeating humor involves the use of self disparaging humor in order to amuse other people. One might use self defeating humor to point out their own flaws to the amusement of others, while simultaneous ly denying or pointing out their negativity towards themselves. The HSQ has been shown to have both construct validity within each of its scales and discriminant validity amongst the types of humor scales and peer ratings of each of the dimensions have bee n shown to significantly correlate with scores acquired from the questionnaire (Kazarion & Martin, 2004; Kuiper et al., 2004; R.A. Martin et al, 2003, Saroglou & Scariot, 2002). The first of the these, affiliative and self e nhancing humor, were hypothesiz ed by Martin et al. (2003) to be more healthy and have generally more positive results for in dividuals than the latter two, aggressive and self d efeating humor, which were hypothesized to be more negative an d detrimental to the self Higher scores of the positive humor types have been seen to be strongly positively correlated with measurements of "well being self esteem, positive emotions, optimism, social support, and intimacy," as well as "negatively correlated to negative moods such as depression and an xiety." Additionally, of the negative humor types, aggressive is positively correlated with aggression and hostility, and negatively correlated with relationship satisfaction. Self defeating humor is related to measures of depression, anxiety, and hostilit y, and negatively with self esteem, social support, and relationship satisfaction (Martin et al., 2003) Because this questionnaire appears to tap into both negative and positive impacts of humor, and because of the differences in the correlations between these types of humor
HUMOR CREATION IMPACT 17 and the variables discussed above, experimental research has been performed in order to assess whether there are differences in effect of the utilization of different types of humor. Samson and Gross (2012) found that "compar ed to negative humour, positive humour was more successful at down regulating negative and up regulating positive emotion." Their study involved participants first rating pictures from the International Affective Picture System for levels of positive and n egative affect. Following this, participants again viewed the pictures and were instructed to asses them in a manner that utilized positive humor, a manner that utilized negative humor, or to simply view them. Positive humor instructions includ ed cognitively reappraising the pictures "by experiencing a sympathetic, tolerant, and benevolent amusement, focusing on the imperfections of life and human beings or on absurdities of the situation without becoming hostile or depreciating," while those i n the negative condition were told to "laugh at these situations in a hostile, superior way, mocking others in order to create an emotional distanc e." The results from this study, that use of positive humor was more successful at both down regulating neg ative and up regulating positive affect, support the idea that these differing regulatory effects of humor may work by a differing emotional r egulation mechanism. The author s suggest that because such a difference was found, and that positive humor is not likely to be more cognitively distracting than negative humor, that perhaps cognitive distraction is not solely responsible for the regulation of emotion which has been observed. This was reflected in their results, as there was no significant difference in difficulty rating between using positive and negative humor by participants.
HUMOR CREATION IMPACT 18 The directions used in the above study touch on some of the aspects of positive and negative types of humor as defined by the HSQ. It seems, though, that the negative condition in the above study largely only pertained to an aggressive humor style (as opposed to both aggressive and self defeating, the two negative styles as described by the HSQ). Because of this, and the differences demonstrated by categorizing humor into positi ve and negative categories, it seems further inquiry into differences between types of humor use may be worth looking into. The Current Study Humor has been seen to have the potential to down regulate negative affect in numerous different poten tial mechanisms by allowing for reinterpretation of negative events, being cognitively distracting in order to interrupt negative affect causing cycles, and emotionally by allowing for mirth, a positive affect, even in dire situations, in studies like thos e discussed above. Also, differences have been found in affect regulation between uses of positive and negative humor. However, the previous research which indicates this difference in positive and negative uses of humor did not tap as wide a range of humo r types as described by the HSQ, which has shown to be a solid measure which taps into distinct uses of humor. Additionally, the negative humor condition in Samson and Gross (2012) only directed participants to utilize humor in an aggressive manne r, and so the study did not incorporate the effect of assessment of the negative stimuli while utilizing self defeating humor. This is likely a result of design of this study, as the instructions to participants were limited to reasonable assessment of neg ative stimuli, and it may have been difficult to instruct participants to assess pictures in a manner that was self defeating.
HUMOR CREATION IMPACT 19 To continue this line of research into differences in affect regulation amongst different types of humor, the current study sough t to examine all four styles of humor as defined by the HSQ. Because positive and negative types of humor have already been seen to impact the regulation of negative affect, it may be that further distinction between different uses of humor may yield illum inating results. Humor has been seen to regulate affect when used in cognitive reappraisal and cognitive distraction, as well as emotional regulation. In order to specifically look at the different e ffect s of utilization of different humor styles, this s tudy was conducted which looked at those differences in an emotional regulation context. As such, this study looked at humor creation unrelated to the cause of negative affect, so that precise directions which were not limited to the appraisal of specific negative stimuli could be used. This allowed for clear conditions which could more easily attempt to tap these possible styles. It also sought to discover whether differences in positive and negative affect regulation would be seen in a humor creation tas k which did not include cognitive appraisal of a stimuli, as previous recent research into this has focused largely on the cognitive appraisal process, but also indicated that humor may be regulating affect in more than just a cognitively distracti ng manne r (see Samson & Gross, 2012; Strick et al. 2009). The current study, then, was conducted in order to assess differences in regulation of positive and negative affect as a result of the four humor styles as described by the HSQ in a humor creation task, unrelated to the affect inducing stimuli presented. It w as hypothesized that positive (self enhancing and a ffiliative) humor would be significantly better at up regulating positive and down regulating n egative affect, than negative (s elf defeating and a ggressive) humor.
HUMOR CREATION IMPACT 20 Method Participants Forty three participants from a small liberal arts college in South Florida, all over the age of 18, took part in this study. Participants were recruited from the college at large and also from a Personality P sychology class The students from this class were informed that participation and opting to take part or not would have no impact on their evaluations or the class, and the professor was not in the room for any of the procedure. Participants recei ved a blue pen from the researcher for their time. Written consent was received prior to the experiment. Materials and Procedure Participants were tested individually and in small groups. They first viewed a negative affect inducing st imuli, displayed by a personal computer. This was a clip from the film Deer Hunter and consisted of characters taking part in a game of Russian roulette. This scene has been successfully used to induce negative affect in a pilot study and subsequently used in additional psychological research in order to induce a negative affect (Campbell Sills, Barlow, Brown, & Hoffman, 2006). This induction of negative affect was performed prior to mood assessment to minimiz e the possibility of participants having too little negative affect or too much of a positive affect to be a ffected by treatment, in essence, to avoid any mood ceiling or floor of the measures used. The purpose of the current study is to assess the differ ences in humor creation of different types of humor, of which the application might be use d as a potential treatment to use for those who might require assistance in dealing with negative affect or a lack of positive affect
HUMOR CREATION IMPACT 21 Following the negative mood induction, participants immediately took the Positive and Negative Affect Scale (PANAS) (Watson, C lark, & Tellegen 1988) to provide a pre treatment measure of both positive and negative affect. This 20 item measure contains a 10 item scale for positive mood (PANAS P), including items like "interested" and "inspired," as well as a 10 item scale fo r negative mood (PANAS N) with items like "upset" and "jittery." Participants rate the extent to which they feel each of the 20 total adjectives listed on a Likert scale from 1 (very slight or not at all) to 4 (extremely). The PANAS has been widely used, and it has been demonstrated to be reliable valid in varying time spans, including the implementation used in the current study, which asked participants to complete the measure in regards to how they feel at the present moment (see App endix for complete measure). Previous research using humorous stimuli and assessment of mood has examined both negative and positive affect separately in this manner (Samson & Gross, 2012; Ruch, 1992). Thus the PANAS, which creates separate scores for b oth positive and negative affect, was suitable for this experiment. After completing the pre treatment PANAS, participants were given a set of instructions, a cartoon, an envelope, and a blank page in order to complete their humor creation task. Participa nts were randomly assigned to one of five conditions that correspond to four of the humor styles as defined by th e HSQ and a control condition; a ggressive, self defeating, affiliative, self enhancing, and n on humorous. The instructions first informed participants that they were to create a joke or humorous caption for all but the control condition, in which they were told to create a straight forward caption. After this, all set of instructions informed participants that the cartoon would emulate them
HUMOR CREATION IMPACT 22 looking at a scene. This was done in order to facilitate the social aspects of the task, which were necessary in order for participants to make use of the proper style of humor in their caption task. The instructions went on to highlight possible aspects of the cartoon they could use to do this, in order to facilitate ease and comfort of the task. This included mention of "objects, the style, the environment, or anything you think of." Following this was the conditional component; the instructions went o n to describe to participants the type of caption they were to create. Beginning with (except for the control condition, which began with "Please take your time and create a caption which") "Please take your time and create a joke or humorous caption whic h" the instructions gave a short description of the style of humor to be used. The control condition instructions simply indicated to create a straight forward caption, followed by the aforementioned statement about what might be used to do so. These desc riptions were based on the operational definitions of th e humor styles in the HSQ. The self d efeating condition's instructions, for example, went on to say "includes putting yourself down, is disparaging towards yourself, makes you the "butt of the joke," or "includes a sentiment of general negativity towards yourself." The general sentiment of each condition was repeated several times in these descriptions, as seen in the above example, in order to thoroughly display the style to participants and maximize their aptitude for creating the joke and following the instructions in that condition. Participants were then instructed that they could take as long as they would like to do this, and when finished, to place all of their materials in the envelope provided to them. They were then reminded that their responses would be completely anonymous (see Appendix for each complete set of instructions).
HUMOR CREATION IMPACT 23 The cartoon used was created by the researcher and an illustrator. It was created in a fashion meant to make the capt ion creation task reasonably simple, so that even those who might have perceived such a task as difficult could complete it. To accomplish this, certain elements which were especially expressive and highly indicative of a cartoon esque style were incorpora ted into the design. Examples of this include the depiction of an anthropomorphic dog and sun, a clown like character, and unusual hats topping both the clown and dog. To avoid the cartoon being too positive a stimulus as to elicit a laughter response or c ause mirth just from participants observing, it was made black and white (see Appendix for the full cartoon). Following the completion of the caption task was the post treatment assessment of positive and negative affect, and so participants then immediate ly completed the PANAS for the second time. This was done so that there was as little time between completing the caption creation task and the completion of the PANAS as possible. After the completion of the second PANAS, participants then completed a sho rt questionnaire. They were asked to choos e, between descriptions of the four humor styles, which best characterized the caption they had just created. They then were asked to indicate their sex and age. Results It was hypothesized that there would be differences in change between pre and post measures of mood between four humor conditions and one non humorous condition. Mood was measured us ing the PANAS, which creates separate scores for positive and negative affect, before and after participants completed a caption creation task. Two one way ANOVAs were conducted between all conditions, for positive and negative affect
HUMOR CREATION IMPACT 24 score change. There w ere no significant differences between the five conditions for positive affect, F (4,38)=1.01, p =.412, or negative affect, F (4,38)=.405, p =.804. There was no difference in change between pre and post test measures of mood between the five conditions. While it was hypothesized that there would be a difference in the change in mood from pre and post measures between the five conditions, no significant differences were found. This indicates that no condition had a difference in positive or negative affect regul ation. Discussion No difference was found between the five caption creation conditions. Despite previous findings that indicate there may be a difference between positive and negative styles of humor utilization to regulate mood, these differences are not supported by this data (Samson & Gross, 2012). The method of humor utilization between the Samson and Gross (2012) study and the current one is that humor was utilized in a different way While the previous study had participants cognitively reappraise pr eviously viewed images, the current involved the act of using humor in the appraisal of a picture unrelated to a cause of affect. This may indicate that while these differences in affect regulation can be found when humor is used as cognitive reappraisal r egarding a negatively or positively affecting stimulus, these same differences in emotion regulation may not be found when humor is used in a task unrelated to affect Perhaps a similar study, which utilizes the methods of Samson and Gross (2012) but inst ructs participants to utilize the four humor styles described in the current study, may be able to find differences in their affective regulation.
HUMOR CREATION IMPACT 25 The limitations of this study may have impacted its ability to find significant results. A small participant pool meant that each condition did not have a very large number of participants. Also, it is always possible that directions for any of the conditions may not have been clear enough to tap into the affect of each humor type for every participant. The lack of any difference between the non humorous condition and the four humor conditions may be due to an overlap between making a straight forward caption for the cartoon and making a joke, in that the cartoon itself was mildly incongruous so may have affecte d participants. Further research, such as the study proposed above which employs similar methods to Samson and Gross (2012), may be used to further elucidate the role humor has in regulation of mood. A more in depth look at the differences between positive and negative humor styles in this way could provide clearer conceptions of how we might use humor in our daily life in order to deal with negative situations and emotions, as well as what we may want to avoid doing with humor in these situations. Addition al refinement of the methods used in the past and the current study may also prove fruitful in discovering the manner in which humor achieves these effects, and so we may gain further insight as to how and why humor affects our lives the way it does. The hypothesis in the current study, that a difference would be found in the positive and negative affect regulation of four styles of humor use and making a non humorous caption, was not supported. This means t hat there may be no advantages or disa dvantages to using humor in certain ways, whether negative or positive. However, based on the past research which has observed both the benefits of humor in attempts to cope, and found differences in cognitive reappraisal between positive and negative humo r
HUMOR CREATION IMPACT 26 types, further research into this is required to paint a proper picture. Varying methodologies, such as in the example above, may yet be able to provide insight as to how humor use really affects our day to day lives. We may yet discover beneficial ways to include humor into emotional regulation routines.
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HUMOR CREATION IMPACT 31 Appendix A Caption Creation Condition Instructions Aggressive Condition Instructions Your task is to use the cartoon on the next page to create a joke or humorous caption. You will see a cartoon which emulates yourself looking towards at least one other individual; you will be creating a joke caption fo r this. Feel free to use any aspect of the cartoon you would like. This might include people, objects, the style, the environment, or anything you think of. Please take your time and create a joke which is critical of something in the cartoon. This could include using sarcasm, teasing, derision, or generally putting someone or something else down. Take as long as you'd like. A blank page is provided for you to write your caption on. After finishing the above, please move on to the next page. When you a re done with everything, please place all of your materials but the cartoon in the envelope. Your responses will remain in this envelope until all data is fully collected and will remain completely anonymous Self Defeating Condition Instructions Your t ask is to use the cartoon on the next page to create a joke or humorous caption. You will see a cartoon which emulates yourself towards at least one other individual; you will be creating a joke caption for this. Feel free to use any aspect of the cartoon you would like. This might include people, objects, the style, the environment, or anything you think of. Please take your time and create a joke which includes putting yourself down, is disparaging towards yourself, makes you the "butt of the joke," or includes a sentiment of general negativity towards yourself. Take as long as you'd like. A blank page is provided for you to write your caption on. After finishing the above, please move on to the next page. When you are done with everything, please pla ce all of your materials but the cartoon in the envelope. Your responses will remain in this envelope until all data is fully collected and will remain completely anonymous
HUMOR CREATION IMPACT 32 Appendix A (Continued) Affiliative Condition Instructions Your task is to use the cartoon on the next page to create a joke or humorous caption. You will see a cartoon which emulates yourself looking towards at least one other individual; you will be creating a joke caption for this. Feel free to use any aspect of the cartoon you w ould like. This might include people, objects, the style, the environment, or anything you think of. Please take your time and create a joke which you might use to relate to another individual. This might include being generally positive or casual with t hem. Take as long as you'd like. A blank page is provided for you to write your caption on. After finishing the above, please move on to the next page. When you are done with everything, please place all of your materials but the cartoon in the envelope Your responses will remain in this envelope until all data is fully collected and will remain completely anonymous Self Enhancing Condition Instructions Your task is to use the cartoon on the next page to create a joke or humorous caption. You will s ee a cartoon which emulates yourself looking towards at least one other individual; you will be creating a joke caption for this. Feel free to use any aspect of the cartoon you would like. This might include people, objects, the style, the environment, or anything you think of. Please take your time and create a joke which you might use to feel good about yourself. This might include using aspects of yourself or the environment which surrounds you, noting any of the positive aspects of your situation, or just being generally jovial. Take as long as you'd like. A blank page is provided for you to write your caption on. After finishing the above, please move on to the next page. When you are done with everything, please place all of your materials but the cartoon in the envelope. Your responses will remain in this envelope until all data is fully collected and will remain completely anonymous
HUMOR CREATION IMPACT 33 Appendix A (Continued) Non humorous Caption Condition Instructions Your task is to use the cartoon on the nex t page to create a caption. You will see a cartoon which emulates yourself looking at a scene towards at least one other individual; you will be creating a caption for this. Feel free to use any aspect of the cartoon you would like. This might include peop le, objects, the style, the environment, or anything you think of. Please take your time and create a caption which briefly describes the scene in a straight forward manner. A blank page is provided for you to write your caption on. After finishing th e above, please move on to the next page. When you are done with everything, please place all of your materials but the cartoon in the envelope. Your responses will remain in this envelope until all data is fully collected and will remain completely anony mous
HUMOR CREATION IMPACT 34 Appendix B Positive and Negative Affect Scale (PANAS) This scale consists of a number of words that describe different feelings and emotions. Read each item and then mark the appropriate answer in the space next to that word. Indicate to what extent you feel this way right now, that is, at the present moment. Use the following scale to record your answers.
HUMOR CREATION IMPACT 35 Appendix C Cartoon
HUMOR CREATION IMPACT 36 Appendix D Humor style question and Demographics Please circle which humor style best categ orizes the caption you created. Affiliative This is an essentially non hostile, tolerant use of humor that is affirming of self and others and presumably enhances interpersonal cohesiveness and attraction. Self Enhancing This involves a generally h umorous outlook on life, a tendency to be frequently amused by the incongruities of life, and to maintain a humorous perspective even in the face of stress or adversity. Aggressive This relates to the use of sarcasm, teasing, ridicule, derision, "put d own," or disparagement humor. It also includes the use of humor to manipulate others by means of an implied threat of ridicule. Self Defeating This involves excessively self disparaging humor, attempts to amuse others by doing or saying funny things at one's own expense as a means of ingratiating oneself or gaining approval, allowing oneself to be the "butt" of others' humor, and laughing along with others when being ridiculed or disparaged. Please designate your sex and age in the appropriate place. Sex: Age: