The present study examined the hypothesis that gelotophobia blurs the emotional responses between ridicule and good-natured teasing. Ridicule should induce negative feelings and teasing happiness and surprise in individuals not suffering gelotophobia. Gelotophobes will discriminate less between the two. Their responses to teasing will be similar to ridicule. A sample of adults (N = 105) specified which emotions they would experience in nine scenarios of social interactions pre-selected to represent bullying ridicule or good-natured teasing. Ridicule elicited strong responses of shame, fear and anger, and other negative emotions but low happiness and surprise. Responses of gelotophobes and non-gelotophobes were highly parallel, with the exception that among extreme gelotophobes stronger shame and fear were displayed than among non-gelotophobes. Good-natured teasing seemed to elicit happiness and surprise and low levels of negative emotions among the non-gelotophobes. Among the gelotophobes, however, it was the negative emotions; primarily shame, fear, and anger that were exhibited as the emotional response pattern. In fact, the emotion profile to good-humored teasing was highly similar to the profile in response to the bullying-ridiculing situations. Gelotophobes' perceptions do not discriminate between playful teasing and good-natured teasing. They do not identify the safe and non-threatening quality of the teasing situations. Treatment of gelotophobes should, therefore, involve helping them to identify the play-signals, i.e., the meta-message that the interaction is playful, for fun and that no harm is intended.
© 2008 by Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, D-10785 Berlin