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International Journal of Humor Research

Editor-in-Chief: Ford, Thomas E.

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Volume 31, Issue 1


The impact of social power on the evaluation of offensive jokes

Hans Knegtmans / Wilco W. van Dijk / Marlon Mooijman / Nina van Lier / Sacha Rintjema / Annemieke Wassink
Published Online: 2017-11-14 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/humor-2017-0106


The current research examined whether social power affects what people find funny. In two experiments, participants’ psychological state of social power was experimentally manipulated and their evaluations of offensive jokes were assessed. Results showed that participants in a psychological state of high power – as compared to low power – evaluated offensive jokes as less inappropriate, less offensive, and funnier. Mediation analyses showed that power increased the funniness of offensive jokes through decreasing the perceived inappropriateness of these jokes. Implications for research on power and humor are discussed.

Keywords: power; offensive jokes; benign violation theory; social psychology


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About the article

Hans Knegtmans

Hans Knegtmans is Assistant Professor of Psychology at the Department of Social and Organizational Psychology at Leiden University. His main research area is the appreciation and the use of humor. He is also a literary critic on crime fiction He can be reached at knegtmans@fsw.leidenuniv.nl.

Wilco W. van Dijk

Wilco van Dijk is Professor of Psychology at the Department of Social and Organizational Psychology at Leiden University. His research areas are emotions, decision making, and economic psychology. He can be reached at dijkwvan@fsw.leidenuniv.nl.

Marlon Mooijman

Marlon Mooijman is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Management and Organizations Department at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University. His research areas are ethics and morality. He can be reached at marlon.mooijman@kellogg.northwestern.edu

Nina van Lier

Nina van Lier, Sacha Rintjema, and Annemieke Wassink are alumni of Leiden University, all three with a MSc. in psychology.

Published Online: 2017-11-14

Published in Print: 2018-01-26

Citation Information: HUMOR, Volume 31, Issue 1, Pages 85–104, ISSN (Online) 1613-3722, ISSN (Print) 0933-1719, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/humor-2017-0106.

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