Disparagement humor and prejudice: Contemporary theory and research

Thomas E. Ford 1 , Kyle Richardson 1 ,  and Whitney E. Petit 2
  • 1 Psychology, Western Carolina University, 91 Killian Building Lane Room 302B, Cullowhee, NC 28723, USA
  • 2 Psychology, University of Houston, 4800 Calhoun Rd, Houston, TX 77004, USA
Thomas E. Ford
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  • Thomas E. Ford is a professor of psychology at Western Carolina University. He received his B. S. from Texas Christian University and 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.
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, Kyle Richardson
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  • Kyle Richardson is a M.A. student at Western Carolina University. He received his B.A. in psychology at Appalachian State University in 2012. His research interests focus on group processes, social influence, and the relationship between disparagement humor and discrimination.
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and Whitney E. Petit
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  • Whitney E. Petit is a Ph.D. student studying social psychology at the University of Houston. She received her M.A. in general and experimental psychology from Western Carolina University in 2014. Her research interests focus on disparagement humor and close relationships.
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Abstract

In this article we review contemporary research testing Martineau’s () hypothesis that disparagement humor fosters or introduces prejudice against the disparaged out-group. Supporting Martineau’s hypothesis, research suggests that instigating disparagement humor might indeed foster prejudice against the targeted group; however, through mechanisms that do not implicate unique effects of humor as a medium for communicating disparagement. Contrary to Martineau’s hypothesis, it does not appear that exposure to disparagement humor promotes a negative disposition toward the targeted group. Rather than acting as an initiator of prejudice, disparagement humor functions as a releaser of existing prejudice. Lastly, following Martineau’s theoretical framework, we identify new questions about the social consequences of disparagement humor that require further theoretical development and empirical research.

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