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International Journal of Humor Research

Editor-in-Chief: Ford, Thomas E.

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Volume 27, Issue 1


The state-of-the art in gelotophobia research: A review and some theoretical extensions

Willibald Ruch / Jennifer Hofmann / Tracey Platt / René Proyer
Published Online: 2013-11-27 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/humor-2013-0046


Research on gelotophobia (the fear of being laughed at) has come a long way since the first empirical studies published in 2008. Based on a review of the findings on gelotophobia, its structure, causes and consequences, updates to the model are introduced emphasizing the context of the fear and its dynamic nature. More precisely, external and internal factors are seen to moderate the effects of initial events on gelotophobia, and a spiral nature in the development of the fear is assumed. It is highlighted that gelotophobia needs to be studied in the context of related variables (such as timidity, shame-proneness and social anxiety), and research should focus on the time span in which this fear is most prevalent. The relevance of gelotophobia for humor theory, research and practice is highlighted and new areas of research are introduced. Among the latter the role of gelotophobia at work and in relation to life trajectories is discussed.

Keywords: gelotophobia; humor; laughter; ridicule; review

About the article

Willibald Ruch

Willibald Ruch is a Full Professor of Psychology at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. His research interests are in the field of humor and laughter, cheerfulness and smiling. In his doctoral dissertation at the University of Graz, Austria in 1980 he developed a taxonomy of jokes and cartoons and its relation to personality. His more recent work, together with his research team at Zurich university, includes humor from a positive psychology perspective, the effectiveness of humor training programs and clown interventions, the ability to laugh at oneself, the fear of being laughed at (i.e., gelotophobia), and bringing gelotophobe-savvy laughter to avatars.

Jennifer Hofmann

Jennifer Hofmann is a psychologist, doctoral student at the University of Zurich and member of the ISHS (International Society for Humor Studies). She is a human interaction expert working and lecturing in the field of humor.

Tracey Platt

Tracey Platt is a psychologist and project worker in the Department of Psychology at University of Zurich, Switzerland. She received her PhD from the University of Zurich in 2013. Her research interests are in human interaction, facial expression and emotion. She is the web-master to gelotophobia.org a website dedicated to gelotophobia assessment. Tracey has published a number of scientific journal articles on the subject of gelotophobia, as well as having co-authored a book chapter on the same topic. The International Society for Humor Studies, where she is a member, has also acknowledged her doctoral research by awarding her the 2010 Graduate Student Award.

René Proyer

René Proyer studied psychology (master level) at the University of Vienna (Austria). He received his PhD from the University of Zurich in 2006 and is currently a senior teaching and research associate at the Division of Personality and Assessment at the Department of Psychology at Zurich University. His main research interests are humor research (especially in the field of dispositions towards ridicule and being laughed at and adult playfulness), positive psychology (especially positive interventions), and test development.

Published Online: 2013-11-27

Published in Print: 2014-02-01

Citation Information: HUMOR, Volume 27, Issue 1, Pages 23–45, ISSN (Online) 1613-3722, ISSN (Print) 0933-1719, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/humor-2013-0046.

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