Prior research on humor in the political context has focused primarily on people's reactions to humor about politicians in the form of cartoons or jokes, or on specific politicians' use of humor as a rhetorical strategy. This study provides an empirical test of audience perceptions of the effectiveness of a politician's use of humor during a political debate. Data were collected during the 2004 election cycle; respondents were told a candidate had made a humorous remark during a recent congressional campaign debate. Party affiliation of the candidate and the target of the humor (himself vs. his opponent) were counterbalanced. The results indicated that self-deprecating humor was rated as more effective, and both Democrats and Republicans saw humor from a Democratic candidate as more effective than from a Republican. Being of the same versus opposite party of the candidate did not affect respondents' attributions of the candidate's motives for using humor or its overall effectiveness. Overall, the biggest predictor of perceived effectiveness was respondents' assessment of the quality (timing and funniness) of the humor.
This experiment relied on social identity theory to investigate jokes that express superiority and denigration toward social groups. In particular, the social identity of gender is examined in the context of sexist-nonstereotypical jokes. Results revealed that sexist-nonstereotypical jokes had the greatest impact on women. Specifically, women rated jokes about men funnier than jokes about themselves, and highly identified women found jokes targeting men significantly funnier than jokes targeting women. These results, and others relating to prototypicality, offer insight into how disparaging intergroup jokes function to accentuate and attenuate intergroup relations.
This study assessed romantic partners' perceptions of their own and each others' humor usage during a conflict discussion. Forty-eight married and dating couples were recorded discussing conflict topics that both partners cited as sources of disagreement in their relationships. Both partners then viewed the videotaped interaction and reported on the humor used by each of them in the interaction. Humor was identified by at least one participant in all couples, with a total of 412 instances of verbal humor identified by participants across 336 minutes of recoded interaction. Partners identified the same instances as humor attempts about 34% of the time. A mix of actor and partner variables predicted participants' relationship satisfaction and their perceptions of conflict escalation and progress. The implications of these findings for advancing the understanding of humor in conflict, as well as the utility of this methodology for further study of humor in dyads, are discussed.