Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …


International Journal of Humor Research

Editor-in-Chief: Ford, Thomas E.

4 Issues per year

IMPACT FACTOR 2016: 0.655
5-year IMPACT FACTOR: 0.718

CiteScore 2016: 0.94

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2016: 0.458
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2016: 0.759

See all formats and pricing
More options …
Volume 30, Issue 2


Manipulating humor styles: Engaging in self-enhancing humor reduces state anxiety

Thomas E. Ford / Shaun K. Lappi / Emma C. O’Connor / Noely C. Banos
Published Online: 2017-02-18 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/humor-2016-0113


We conducted three experiments to determine if engaging in self-enhancing humor can alleviate state anxiety associated with an anticipated stressful event. In all three experiments, participants imagined they were about to take a stressful math test. In Experiment 1 participants who engaged in self-enhancing humor while anticipating taking the test experienced less state anxiety than those who engaged in self-defeating humor or no humor at all. Experiment 2 demonstrated that engaging in self-enhancing humor reduced state anxiety more than mere instructions to adopt a non-serious, humorous outlook in the stressful situation. Experiment 3 revealed that self-enhancing humor alone induced participants to adopt a humorous perspective on the stressful math test, but that participants responded with the least state anxiety when they were also given instructions about how to use the humor to reframe the math test. Collectively, our findings corroborate and extend previous correlational studies showing that self-enhancing humor can alleviate state anxiety associated with a stressful event.

Keywords: humor styles; self-enhancing humor; state anxiety


  • Buhrmester, Michael D., Tracy Kwang & Samuel D. Gosling. 2011. Amazon’s mechanical Turk: A new source of inexpensive, yet high quality data? Perspectives on Psychological Science 6.3–5. doi:CrossrefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Cann, Arnie & Chantal Collette. 2014. Sense of humor, stable affect and psychological well-being. Europe’s Journal of Psychology 10. 464–479.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Cann, Arnie & Katherine C. Etzel. 2008. Remembering and anticipating stressors: Positive personality mediates the relationship with sense of humor. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research Humor 21(2). 157–178.Web of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Cann, Arnie, Kelly Stilwell & Kanako Taku. 2010. Humor styles, positive personality and health. Europe’s Journal of Psychology 3(2). 213–235.Google Scholar

  • Galloway, Graeme. 2010. Individual differences in personal humor styles: Identification of prominent patterns and their associates. Personality and Individual Differences 48. 563–567.Web of ScienceCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Ibarra-Rovillard, M. Sol & Nicholas A. Kuiper. 2011. The effects of humor and depression labels on reactions to social comments. Scandinavian Journal Of Psychology 52(5). 448–456.Web of ScienceCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Kuiper, Nicholas A., M. Grimshaw, Catherine Leite & Gillian Kirsh. 2004. Humor is not always the best medicine: Specific components of sense of humor and psychological well-being. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research 17. 1351–168.Google Scholar

  • Kuiper, Nicholas A., Shahe S. Kazarian, Jessica Sine & Margaret Bassil. 2010a. The impact of humor in North American versus Middle East cultures. Europe’s Journal of Psychology 3. 149–173.Google Scholar

  • Kuiper, Nicholas A., Gillian A. Kirsh & Catherine Letie. 2010b. Reactions to humorous comments and implicit theories of humor styles. Europe’s Journal of Psychology 6. 236–266.Google Scholar

  • Kuiper, Nicholas A., Rod A. Martin & L. Joan Olinger. 1993. Coping humor, stress, and cognitive appraisals. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science 25. 81–96.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Kuiper, Nicholas A. & Nicola McHale. 2009. Humor styles as mediators between self-evaluative standards and psychological well-being. The Journal of Psychology 143(4). 359–376.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Liu, Katy W. Y. 2012. Humor styles, self-esteem and subjective happiness. Discovery–SS Student E-Journal 1. 21–41.Google Scholar

  • Maiolina, Nadia & Nicholas A. Kuiper. 2016. Examining the impact of a brief humor exercise on psychological well-being. Translational Issues in Psychological Science 2(1). 4–13.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Martin, Rod A. 2007. The psychology of humor: An integrative approach. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar

  • Martin, Rod A. 2015. On the challenges of measuring humor styles: Response to Heintz and Ruch. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research 28(4). 635–639.Web of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Martin, Rod A., Patricia Puhlik-Doris, Gwen Larsen, Jeanette Gray & Kelly Weir. 2003. Individual differences in uses of humor and their relation to psychological well-being: Development of the humor styles questionnaire. Journal of Research in Personality 37. 48–75.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Ryff, Carol D.1989. Happiness is everything, or is it? Explorations on the meaning of psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 57(6). 1069.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Samson, Andrea C. & James J. Gross. 2012. Humour as emotion regulation: The differential consequences of negative versus positive humour. Cognition & Emotion 26(2). 375–384.CrossrefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Spielberger, Charles D., R. L. Gorsuch & R. E. Lushene. 1970. The state-trait anxiety inventory (STAI) test manual. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.Google Scholar

  • Stieger, Stefan, Anton K. Formann & Christopher Burger. 2011. Humor styles and their relationship to explicit and implicit self-esteem. Personality and Individual Differences 50(5). 747–750.Web of ScienceCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Zeigler-Hill, Virgil & Avi Besser 2011. Humor style mediates the association between pathological narcissism and self-esteem. Personality and Individual Differences 50. 1196–1201.Web of ScienceCrossrefGoogle Scholar

About the article

Thomas E. Ford

Thomas E. Ford is a Professor of Psychology at Western Carolina University. He received his Ph.D. in Social Psychology from the University of Maryland. His research interests include the role of disparagement humor in promoting expressions of prejudice and the relationship between humor and subjective well-being.

Shaun K. Lappi

Shaun K. Lappi is a Ph.D. student in Social Psychology at the University of Wyoming. He received his M. A. in Psychology from Western Carolina University in 2016. His research interests focus on questions related to emotions and self-regulation, and the relationship between humor styles and happiness.

Emma C. O’Connor

Emma C. O’Connor is a second-year M. A. student at Western Carolina University. She received her B. A. in psychology from SUNY College at Buffalo in 2015. Her research focuses on the social construction of masculinity, and the social functions of disparagement humor.

Noely C. Banos

Noely C. Banos is a second-year M. A. student at Western Carolina University. She received her B. A. in psychology from University of Mississippi in 2015. Her research interests include prejudice, stereotypes and masculinity, and the role of disparagement humor in fostering in interpersonal contexts.

Published Online: 2017-02-18

Published in Print: 2017-09-26

Citation Information: HUMOR, Volume 30, Issue 2, Pages 169–191, ISSN (Online) 1613-3722, ISSN (Print) 0933-1719, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/humor-2016-0113.

Export Citation

© 2017 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston. Copyright Clearance Center

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in