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Disparagement humor and prejudice: Contemporary theory and research

Thomas E. Ford, Kyle Richardson and Whitney E. Petit
From the journal HUMOR


In this article we review contemporary research testing Martineau’s (1972) hypothesis that disparagement humor fosters or introduces prejudice against the disparaged out-group. Supporting Martineau’s hypothesis, research suggests that instigating disparagement humor might indeed foster prejudice against the targeted group; however, through mechanisms that do not implicate unique effects of humor as a medium for communicating disparagement. Contrary to Martineau’s hypothesis, it does not appear that exposure to disparagement humor promotes a negative disposition toward the targeted group. Rather than acting as an initiator of prejudice, disparagement humor functions as a releaser of existing prejudice. Lastly, following Martineau’s theoretical framework, we identify new questions about the social consequences of disparagement humor that require further theoretical development and empirical research.


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Published Online: 2015-4-25
Published in Print: 2015-5-1

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