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International Journal of Humor Research

Editor-in-Chief: Ford, Thomas E.

IMPACT FACTOR 2017: 0.660
5-year IMPACT FACTOR: 1.059

CiteScore 2017: 1.27

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2017: 0.415
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2017: 1.228

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Volume 14, Issue 2


A reformulation of the moderating effects of productive humor

Kerri M Lehman / Kevin L Burke / Randall Martin / Jennifer Sultan / Daniel R Czech
Published Online: 2008-02-20 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/humr.14.2.131


The ability to effectively cope with stress has been demonstrated to be an important factor in warding off potential physical disease and psychological distress. Responses to stressful events have been shown to greatly vary across individuals. Research has shown that intervening variables, such as cognitive appraisals of stressful events, can markedly affect the amount of stress (e.g., mood disturbance, anxiety, changes in neurotransmitter concentrations, suppression of immune system functioning) individuals experience. One such intervening variable, productive humor, was hypothesized to have a positive stress-moderating effect.

Four different experimental conditions were used to assess the impact of a stressful situation on mood and anxiety state. Two conditions had subjects produce a humorous narrative in response to the stressful situation. One of these conditions included an instructional video on the use of productive humor. A third condition had subjects produce an intellectual narrative, while a fourth condition had subjects produce no narrative. The humorous narrative conditions were hypothesized to lead to the greatest moderation in stress (i.e., mood and anxiety).

In the humorous narrative (without training) condition, subjects who were more successful at producing the narratives showed significantly more moderated changes in mood and anxiety levels pre-task to post-task. These changes were not significantly different from the intellectual or no narrative conditions. The significant difference found between high versus low humorous narrative producers may be accounted for in terms of success versus non-success at completing the experimental task.

Finally, among subjects with initially high pre-task mood or anxiety levels and high tendencies to use productive humor, successful performance of some type of a verbal, cognitive task (i.e., humorous or intellectual narrative) was found to be more beneficial in moderating the effects of stress versus silence. These latter findings were based on patterns of results from post hoc analyses with small sample sizes, thus suggesting the need for future research along similar lines.

About the article

Published Online: 2008-02-20

Published in Print: 2001-07-04

Citation Information: Humor – International Journal of Humor Research, Volume 14, Issue 2, Pages 131–161, ISSN (Online) 1613-3722, ISSN (Print) 0933-1719, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/humr.14.2.131.

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