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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton February 13, 2009

How do gelotophobes interpret laughter in ambiguous situations? An experimental validation of the concept

Willibald Ruch, Olga Altfreder and René T. Proyer
From the journal


The present study was designed to examine the phenomenon of the fear of being laughed at. Three groups of adults, preselected with respect to: (1) having no fear of being laughed at, (2) being borderline with respect to the fear of being laughed at, and (3) being abnormally afraid of being laughed at (gelotophobic). All the subjects listened to tape recordings of laughter. These recordings of laughter reflected a variety of emotional qualities. The subjects rated these recordings according to several criteria and estimated the emotional-motivational state of the laughing person. The subjects were also shown 20 cartoons depicting social situations that involved laughter or the potential of someone's being laughed at and were asked to stipulate what a target person in the cartoon would think or say. It was shown that gelotophobes experienced positively motivated laughter as more unpleasant than did subjects in the non-gelotophobic groups. The gelotophobic group was also more prone to estimate that the laughing person was in a state of negative affect. Those with no fear of laughter and those on the borderline experienced an increase in mood level after the laughter perception task whereas the gelotophobes remained unaffected. Finally, in the semi-projective cartoon evaluation task, the gelotophobes gave more answers that expressed mockery and fear of being laughed at than the other subjects. The results of these experiments show that anomalies relating to individual subjects' degrees of fear of laughter (gelotophobia) exist and can be predicted by the measures described.

Published Online: 2009-02-13
Published in Print: 2009-February

© 2009 by Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, D-10785 Berlin

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