Having a high sense of humor has been found to be a general social asset, but there has been no assessment of the specific qualities that are assumed to be associated with variations in sense of humor. Two studies were conducted to examine the assumptions observers would make about the personal qualities associated with varying levels of sense of humor. In the first study, participants (150 female and 86 male college students) were asked to use a set of adjectives to rate individuals described as varying in sense of humor. The overall pattern of results indicated that, compared to persons described as “typical” or “below average” in sense of humor, individuals described as “well above average” were rated more highly on socially desirable adjectives, lower on socially undesirable adjectives, but no different on adjectives reflecting social sensitivity. In the second study, participants (120 female and 49 male college students) were asked to use a measure of the “big five” personality traits to rate individuals described as varying in sense of humor. Results indicated that individuals described as being “well above average” in sense of humor were perceived as lower in neuroticism and higher in agreeableness than “typical”, or “below average” sense of humor others. The findings of these two studies confirm the importance of a high sense of humor as a social asset, and provide some clarity concerning the likely underlying bases for the positive expectations sense of humor generates in observers.
HUMOR, the official publication of the International Society for Humor Studies (ISHS), was established over 25 years ago as an international interdisciplinary forum for the publication of high-quality research papers on humor as an important and universal human faculty. The journal publishes original contributions in areas such as interdisciplinary humor research, humor theory, and humor research methodologies.