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International Journal of Humor Research

Editor-in-Chief: Ford, Thomas E.

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Volume 22, Issue 4


How virtuous is humor? Evidence from everyday behavior

Ursula Beermann / Willibald Ruch
Published Online: 2010-02-01 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/HUMR.2009.023


Historical as well as contemporary writers across many disciplines have referred to humor as a virtue. However, in psychological research it is not clear in which ways humor can serve (as) a virtue, and for which virtues this holds. The current study addresses this issue from the perspective of lay people's everyday lives. The aims of the study are to investigate (1) how often people achieved each of six core virtues identified by Dahlsgaard et al. (Review of General Psychology 9: 203–213, 2005) by means of humor, also in relation to how important the respective virtue was for the participants, (2) to collect reports of situations where participants actually used humor to achieve any of the six virtues, and (3) to study the use of eight comic styles (Schmidt-Hidding, Europäische Schlüsselwörter. Band I: Humor und Witz, Huber, 1963) within the reported situations. Whereas justice and humanity were the virtues considered most important, the virtues most compatible with humor seemed to be humanity and wisdom. However, it was possible to report situations for each of the virtues. More benevolent comic styles were used more frequently to achieve virtue than more malevolent styles. But whenever malevolent styles, like sarcasm or cynicism, were used, this was disproportionally often the case in order to exert justice.

Keywords:: Virtue; humor; positive psychology; comic styles; situations

About the article

Published Online: 2010-02-01

Published in Print: 2009-10-01

Citation Information: Humor - International Journal of Humor Research, Volume 22, Issue 4, Pages 395–417, ISSN (Online) 1613-3722, ISSN (Print) 0933-1719, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/HUMR.2009.023.

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