ArticlePDF Available


We tested the hypothesis that group norms would have an effect on humor appreciation, specifically on ingroup disparaging humor. In this study (N = 195), participants were exposed to two humor conditions (neutral or ingroup disparaging humor) and to two group norms regarding humor appreciation (favoring or rejecting). Favoring group norm had a direct effect on the funniness scores. Moreover, an interaction effect of group norm and type of humor was found on the humor appreciation. When the group norm was rejecting, appreciation of the two different types of humor was different, whereas in the favoring group norm, no statistically significant differences were observed. Additionally, for the disparaging humor exposure, a favoring group norm promoted a greater acceptation of the stereotypical characteristics presented in the disparaging humor as realistic and representative of the ingroup. These results suggest that group norms act as important contextual information that influences disparaging humor appreciation. Keywords: humor appreciation, group norms, disparaging humor, ingroup
Catalina Argüello Gutiérrez*, Hugo Carretero-Dios, Guillermo B. Willis
and Miguel Moya Morales
It’s funny if the group says so: Group Norms Moderate Disparaging
Humor Appreciation
Abstract: We tested the hypothesis that group norms would have an effect on humor
appreciation, specifically on ingroup disparaging humor. In this study (N = 195), participants
were exposed to two humor conditions (neutral or ingroup disparaging humor) and to two
group norms regarding humor appreciation (favoring or rejecting). Favoring group norm had
a direct effect on the funniness scores. Moreover, an interaction effect of group norm and
type of humor was found on the humor appreciation. When the group norm was rejecting,
appreciation of the two different types of humor was different, whereas in the favoring group
norm, no statistically significant differences were observed. Additionally, for the disparaging
humor exposure, a favoring group norm promoted a greater acceptation of the stereotypical
characteristics presented in the disparaging humor as realistic and representative of the
ingroup. These results suggest that group norms act as important contextual information that
influences disparaging humor appreciation.
Keywords: humor appreciation, group norms, disparaging humor, ingroup
*Corresponding author: Catalina Argüello Gutiérrez, Faculty of Psychology, University
of Granada. Spain.
Hugo Carretero-Dios, Department of Methodology of Behavioural Sciences. University of
Granada, Spain.
Guillermo B. Willis and Miguel Moya Morales, Department of Social Psychology. University
of Granada, Spain.
1 Introduction
Humor expressions are shaped in specific social contexts (Kuipers 2008, 2009) and several
studies have shown that both laughter and humor appreciation are socially influenced
(Fridlund 1991; Provine 2000; Ruch 2007; Ruch and Ekman 2001; Smoski and Bachorowski
2003). As such, people take into account external social information to interpret humorous
material. Specifically, group norms influence peoples perceptions and behaviors (Bohner,
Pina, Viki and Siebler 2010; Fein, Goethals and Kugler 2007; Goldstein, Cialdini and
Griskevicius 2008; Olson and Roese 1995).
Past research has examined the effects of canned laughter on increased perception of
funniness of humor (e.g., Cialdini 1993, Furnham, Hutson, and McClelland 2011, Porterfield
et al. 1988), but it has not deepened our understanding of what happens when the content of
humor is relevant for an ingroup. Also, the context in which humor takes place has shown to
be determinant of how disparaging humor (i.e., sexist humor) is interpret and perceived as
funny (Gray and Ford 2013). However, the effects of descriptive group normshow most
people behave in a given situationon the appreciation of ingroup disparaging humor have
not been yet studied.
In the present research, we aim to fill this gap by examining whether group descriptive
norms have different effects on the appreciation of disparaging humora direct and obvious
attack on a characteristic of a person or specific group that promotes entertainment through
denigration (Ferguson and Ford 2008; Ford and Ferguson 2004)for member of the
disparaged group. We also investigated whether group norms about how to perceive ingroup
disparaging humor affects the degree to which group members endorse stereotypes about
their ingroup.
2 Funniness and aversiveness in humor appreciation
When approaching to humor appreciation it is important to identify the properties of an event
or stimulus thought to be essential in producing humor (Carretero-Dios, Pérez, and Buela
2006; Weber et al. 2014). We consider two main perspectives: (a) a structure and content
model (Ruch and Platt 2014) and (b) subjective mindset interpretation (Apter 1982; Wyer
and Collins 1992).
2.1 Structure and content model
Ruch and colleagues (Ruch 1992; Ruch and Platt 2014; Ruch and Hehl 2010) proposed a
two-mode model of humor appreciation considering a stimulus mode and a response mode
in the understanding of humor appreciation.
The stimulus modes corresponds to the structural components that can be referred to:
(a) incongruity-resolution humor (INC-RES), (b) nonsense humor (NON) and (c) sexual
humor (SEX). In each category the most important aspects of humor are highlighted. In the
first one the incongruity can be completely resolved (McGhee, Ruch and Hehl 1990), in the
second one no resolution of the incongruity is observed (McGhee et al. 1990: 124), and the
third category, SEX humor, may have either structure, but is homogeneous with respect to
sexual content.
In the response mode two orthogonal components are distinguished: funniness and
aversiveness. Funniness refers to the amusing quality or element in something, meanwhile
aversiveness is understood as a personal positioning related to the humor content. A joke can
be considered to be very funny and at the same time—because of personal preferences and
moral reasons—it can be seen as very aversive (Ruch and Helh, 1987; Ruch and Helh 2010).
When analyzing the effects associated to humor exposure both components must be taken
into account (Carretero-Dios, Pérez and Buela-Casal 2009; Weber et al. 2014).
Subjective mindset interpretation
A second approach to the study of humor appreciation is to locate the essential parts of humor
in a person’s subjective interpretation of an event or stimulus (e.g., Apter 1982; Wyer and
Collins 1992). This position stresses the importance of understanding social information in
terms of previously acquired concepts and general knowledge to perceive something as
humorous. Apter’s (1982) conceptualization of humor elicitation is one component of the
more general theory of personality and motivation, and it takes into account both
motivational and cognitive factors. Reversal theory states that the hedonic tone associated
with different levels of arousal depends on the “metamotivational state” that an individual
has at a specific moment. Different metamotivational states are proposed, but the pair most
relevant to humor are the telic and paratelic. A person in a telic state is goal oriented and
serious minded, whereas in a paratelic state one is focused on ongoing activity and is more
Humor experiences involve both an increase in arousal and a reversal from the telic
to the paratelic mode of functioning. This state of reversal is accomplished by means of
playful, illogical, and incongruous juxtapositions of ideas, and individuals will seek out more
pleasurable arousal and generally enjoy more humorous activity (Martin, 1998). This has
found support in Ruch’s (1994) work indicating that individuals with a greater sense of
humor tend more often to be in the paratelic state.
These theories provide a context for thinking about the importance and relevance of
the responses to humor: funniness and aversiveness and positive or negative arousal.
However, besides considering the stimuli and the responses, it is also necessary to be aware
of social norms in order to exhibit a coherent response to humor. According to Warren and
McGraw (2016), appreciating something as humorous produces at least one of three
responses: behavioral (e.g., laughing), cognitive (judging something as “funny”), or
emotional (experiencing the positive emotion of amusement). Contextual information gives
feedback about how to express behavioral, cognitive, and emotional responses. Specifically,
judging something as funny or aversive depends not only of the stimulus itself but also to the
social setting in which the humorous experience is taking place. Therefore, social norms are
a key element when analyzing the effects of disparaging humor.
3 The role of social norms in humor appreciation
Norms are considered to guide action in direct and meaningful ways (Aarts and Dijksterhuis
2003; Bohner and Schlüter 2014; Rimal and Real 2005) and become particularly influential
on behavior when these norms are relevant at the time a behavioral judgment is made
(Cialdini, Reno and Kallgren 1990; McDonald and Crandall 2015, Nolan et al. 2008).
The social context affects responses to a humor event by providing norms that guide
our subjective reactions to a humor event. Gray and Ford (2013) found evidence that some
contexts can facilitate the tolerance of disparaging humor, whereas others do not. A context
informs an individual as to what behavior is expected or acceptable and it generates social
norms. Social norms are shared standards that guide or constrain behavior (Cialdini and Trost
1998) and also an expectation of appropriate behavior that occurs in a group context
(McDonald and Crandall 2015). Norms can be injunctive norms, which prescribe or prohibit
certain behaviors, or descriptive norms, which contain information about how other people
judge or act in a particular situation (Cialdini, Kallgren and Reno 1991). Research has shown
that communicating a descriptive norm via written information can induce conformity to the
communicated behavior (Bohner, Siebler and Schmelcher, 2006; Crozier and Spink 2016;
Fornara et al. 2011; Goldstein, Cialdini and Griskevicius 2008; Parks, Sanna and Berel 2001;
Schultz 1999).
Additionally, Terry and Hogg (1996) proposed a model of normative influence that
stressed the importance of ingroup norms. According to this theory, group norms should
primarily affect behavior if the specified norms originate from a group that is a relevant
source of social identity for an individual. Several studies have supported this view and
highlighted that these effects are especially strong when people identified with the reference
group (Terry and Hogg 1996; Terry, Hogg and White 1999), when people’s group
membership had been made salient (Wellen, Hogg and Terry 1998), or when the information
comes from a close group (Bohner et al. 2010; Goldstein, Cialdini and Griskevicius 2008).
Specifically in humor research, the manipulation of norms has mostly been done
regarding funniness of the stimulus. Experiments have found that the use of canned laughter
influences an audience’s responses to humor, such that when others’ laughter is present there
is a tendency to evaluate material as funnier (Fuller and Sheehy-Skeffigton 1974; Gruner
1993; Martin and Gray, 1996; Platow et al. 2005).
Moreover, research on social influence and persuasion suggests that the information
source is often an important determinant of its success (e.g., Petty and Cacioppo 1981; Turner
1991). In this sense, Platow et al. (2005) manipulated the presence or absence of canned
laughter in a potentially humorous recording and also participants beliefs about who was
laughing (ingroup or out-group members, or no laughter). They found that participants rated
humorous material more favorably when they believed an ingroup was laughing rather than
an out-group or heard no laughter at all. However, in this research, humorous material had
identical—and ingroup irrelevant—content in all conditions. In this paper, we examined the
effects of social norms on a type of humor with a specific content: disparaging humor.
Disparaging humor tends to be associated to more negative reactions (i.e.,
aversiveness or offensiveness) and is therefore more sensitive to changes in social norms than
neutral humor (Ford and Ferguson 2004; Ford et al. 2008). Research has stated that when
humor serves as a means by which groups can be denigrated, norms about a targeted group
will determine which jokes offend and which delight (Crandall, Eshleman and O’Brien 2002,
Ford et al. 2013). Additionally, it has been pointed out that the conditions that facilitate
normative influence are mainly those emphasizing the norm salience (Cialdini et al. 1991)
and relevance of the group that the norm emanates from (Terry and Hogg 1996). In this sense,
individuals report stronger intentions to engage in behaviors when group norms are made
salient to show that the behavior is endorsed by and engaged in by other group members
(Hogg and Smith 2007; Smith and Louis 2009).
So, how do norms affect our perceptions of a humor event? Norms give us implicit
rules for how we should interpret a humor event; whether we should adopt a serious “telic”
mindset or a non-serious “paratelic” mindset (e.g., Apter 1982; Berlyne 1972) and from that
posture evaluate in which degree we considered a humor event to be funny and aversive. It
important to bear in mind that people internalize beliefs about how things should be, and
precisely disparaging humor include threats to those beliefs by questioning things that seem
wrong or bad according to a social, linguistic, communication, or logic norm. Following the
benign violation theory (McGraw and Warren 2010), three conditions precede humor: (a)
something must be appraised as a violation, (b) something must be appraised as benign, and
(c) the appraisals must be simultaneously juxtaposed (McGraw and Warren 2010; McGraw,
Warren, Williams and Leonard 2012; Veatch 1998; Warren and McGraw 2016).This theory
proposes that humor occurs only when the violation is simultaneously appraised as being
benign and there is nothing to worry about because the violation is harmless (McGraw and
Warren 2010). Therefore, the violation should not be so strong or funniness will be lost, but
at the same time it requires some arousal. Individuals must perceived ingroup disparaging
humor as a benign violation in order to adopt a playful mindset to interpret the humor.
Disparaging humor changes external sources of self-regulation (Ford, Richardson and
Petit 2015) and activates negative stereotypes leading to biases in social judgment (Ford
1997). Descriptive social norms (othersreactions to the humor) provide a relevant cue for
people to perceive ingroup disparaging humor as benign or not. Therefore, social norms can
have a powerful influence on ingroup relevant information such as disparaging humor but
not in neutral humor in which group norm information is not as relevant.
4 The present study: hypothesis and overview
This study was designed to examine the effects of making salient group norms (i.e.,
favoring/rejecting humor) on the appreciation of ingroup disparaging humor. Group norms
were manipulated to give information about what the ingroup believes about ingroup
disparaging humor. Additionally, given that most studies that have analyzed the effects of
disparaging humor toward the ingroup have used sexist humor (e.g., Abrams and Bippus
2011; Ford 2000; Kochersberger et al. 2014), we decided to expand the study of disparaging
humor exposure using a different ingroup: university students.
We hypothesized that group norms will affect humor appreciation, acting as an
important cue to modulates ones responses to humor. Participants will tend to have a
differentiated humor appreciation when group norms favor or reject the humor. In this sense,
we expected that favoring group norms will increase perceived funniness of the humor
stimuli (Hypothesis 1).
Normative approval of ingroup disparaging humor could signal that the ingroup
disparagement (a violation) is actually benign or harmless. The perception of the
disparagement as a benign violation induces us to think about the disparagement in a playful,
non-serious mindset and thus perceive it as funnier and less aversive. We expected an
interaction effect between group norms and type of humor on humor appreciation: due to
their group-related content, group norms will have a stronger effect on the appreciation of
disparaging humor than on neutral humor (Hypothesis 2).
By rendering the ingroup disparagement as a benign violation, the normative approval
of ingroup disparaging humor communicates that the underlying negative stereotypes are
harmless and non-threatening (at least in that immediate context). Thus, people show greater
acceptance of stereotypes. We hypothesized that in the favoring group norm, participants will
perceive the characteristics to be more realistic than in the rejecting group norm (Hypothesis
5 Method
5.1 Participants and design
One hundred and ninety-five undergraduate students participated voluntarily in this study.
The sample consisted of 94 females, 100 males, and one participant who did not report his
or her sex. The students were aged between 17 and 31 years old (M = 19.79; SD = 1.90).
Professors from several faculties were informed about the study, in the case they acceded to
collaborate their students were invited to the study before their classes began.
Participants were randomly assigned to one of the experimental conditions in a 2 × 2
design analyzing humor (ingroup disparaging vs. neutral) and group norms (favoring vs.
5.2 Procedure
5.2.1 Stimulus material pretesting
The purpose of the pilot study was to obtain a joke data set that comprised both ingroup
disparaging and neutral jokes perceived as equally funny. In this pilot study, N= 102
participants evaluated 32 jokes selected under the criterion that they collect specific content
that disparages university students (16 jokes) or neutral humor (16 jokes). In the disparaging
humor condition, all the jokes presented at least one negative stereotype of the group; namely,
they portrayed university students as: (a) party oriented, revelers, or frequent alcohol drinkers
or (b) lazy, devil may care, or disinterested. One example of these jokes is:
Whats the last thing a university student does before taking an exam? Take
something for the hangover!”
Neutral jokes were defined as those that did not make any reference to specific
attributes of an individual or group (see Carretero-Dios et al. 2010). For example:
A waiter says to a customer, “We have a menu of nine euros and six euros.” So the
customer asks, “And what’s the difference?” And the waiter says, “Three euros.”
The internal structure of all humorous stimuli was an incongruity-resolution structure.
Additionally, both factors included items with different formats (jokes and cartoons) and
extensions, discarding a factorial solution due to formal rather than conceptual aspects. Five
jokes were selected from each humor type, making sure there were no statistically significant
differences between the jokes’ funniness scores (disparaging humor: M = 1.36; SD = .90;
All the jokes were originally in Spanish so their English translation may have not the same sense or any sense
at all.
neutral humor: M = 1.46; SD =.97; t(101) = −1.15, p = .251). These funniness means are similar
to those found in other humor studies using disparaging humor (Kochersberger et al. 2014;
Romero-Sánchez et al. 2010). For complete information about the process of gathering the
humorous material please see Argüello, Carretero-Dios, Willis and Moya (2016).
5.2.2 Experiment 1
Once we had humorous material with the adequate psychometric proprieties, we ran
our main study N =195. The booklet was administrated before classes in different faculties
by the person responsible for conducting this research. The participants were told that the
booklets were part of an opinion survey about different topics published in the university’s
online newspaper. Booklets corresponding to the four experimental conditions were
randomly distributed to those who voluntarily agreed to participate in the study. The
average time to fill out the booklets was 10 minutes. After finishing the survey, students
were thanked and they received a brief description of the study aims.
The booklets of the present study contained five jokes (ingroup disparaging vs.
neutral) that were said to be part of a large study in which university students showed their
opinions about the jokes. Our manipulation consisted of presenting two different outcomes
of the studentsopinions about the jokes; either favoring or rejecting them.
In the favoring group norm condition, participants read that the jokes that they were
going to see were considered very funny and with low aversiveness by a large sample of
university students. Meanwhile, in the rejecting group norm condition, participants read
that the jokes that they were going to see were considered not very funny and highly
aversive by a large sample of university students.
Participants rated each joke on two unipolar 5-point scales for funniness and
aversiveness (from 0 = not funny/ aversive at all to 4 = very funny/ aversive). Also, after the
presentation of the five jokes, participants answered the following questions: “To what
extend did you like the jokes?” (Likability), and “How disparaging do you consider the
jokes?(Denigration). Responses were made on 11-point rating scales from 0 (not at all) to
10 (very much).
Only for disparaging humor condition were participants asked to indicate to which
extent the jokes presented real characteristics of students using a scale from 0 (not at all) to
4 (very much).
Finally, participants answered a short demographic questionnaire on which they
indicated their age, sex, academic major, and nationality. Also, some variables not directly
related to our study were measured.
Other measures not related to the hypothesis of our research were applied. To see the complete list of measures
please see below:
Identification with the in-group. Degree of identification with university students (in-group) was measured
using a scale from 0 = I do not identify at all to 10 = I identify completely. This measure was presented after the
jokes, at the end of the booklet.
Ingroup evaluation. The measure used for this purpose was the feeling thermometer, which was used to
analyze how exposure to humor affects the way members of the targeted in-group feel about university students.
This measure has been shown to be a reliable and valid measure of social attitudes (Alwin 1997; Kinder and
Drake 2009). Participants expressed the way they felt about students in general using a scale ranging from 0 =
very unfavorable feelings to 10 = very favorable feelings.
In order to check whether our manipulation was adequate, participants were asked
to write down their evaluations of the jokes, as requested in their questionnaires. The
manipulation check was considered correct only when participants gave an answer that
matched the group norm to which they were assigned.
6 Results
6.1 Preliminary analysis
Seven participants did not correctly answer our manipulation check and therefore were not
included in the sample nor the analysis.
As expected, disparaging humor was considered to be more denigrating to
participants than neutral humor (t(193) = 11.43, p < .001; M = 4.72, SD = 3.15; M = .55; SD =
1.19, respectively). Likability of the jokes was higher in the neutral condition than in the
disparaging humor condition (t(193) = 3.05, p < .001; M = 4.30, SD = 2.54; M = 3.22; SD =
2.35, respectively).
6.2 Humor appreciation
We predicted that our manipulation of group norms (favoring vs. rejecting) would have
differential effects on humor appreciation. To test this we ran two-way ANOVAs using
funniness and then aversiveness scores as dependent variables and group norms and type of
humor as independent variables.
We found that group norms had a main effect on funniness responses, F(1,191) = 4.95,
p = .027, ηp2= .046. In this sense, independently of humor type, jokes are perceived as
funnier when the ingroup norm is favoring than when the ingroup norm is rejecting (M =
1.67, SD = .80; M = 1.32; SD = .86, respectively), supporting Hypothesis 1.
Then, the interaction effect of group norm and humor type on the funniness and
aversiveness scores was analyzed with a two-way ANOVA for testing Hypothesis 2. A
marginal interaction effect of the type of humor and group norm on the funniness mean
scores was found (F(1,191) = 2.96, p = .087; ηp2= .015). Even though these jokes were equal
in funniness in a pilot study, when analyzing the data according to type of humor our
manipulation of group norms produced differential effects: when humor was ingroup
disparaging, funniness scores were statistically different in the favoring group norm
condition (M = 1.60, SD = .79) and the rejecting group norm condition (M =1.14, SD =.81,
t(110) = 3.06, p = .003,). However, for the neutral humor condition, group norms did not
promote statistically significant differences in funniness scores (M =1.76, SD =.80; M =
1.70, SD = .784, t(81) = .33, p = .745, favoring and rejecting groups’ norms, respectively).
Ingroup Stereotyping. Also, we presented the students with a task partially based on Esses and Zanna (1995),
which was used in a previous study on humor (Argüello et al. 2012). Participants were asked to write down four
characteristics that they considered typical of university students.
Figure 1. Effect of group norms on funniness according to type of humor
Also, the same analyses were done using aversiveness as the dependent variable. No
significant main effects of group norms or interaction effect between group norms and type
of humor were observed on the aversiveness scores, Fs < 1, n.s.
6.3 Acceptance of ingroup stereotypes
Additionally, we wanted to explore whether group norms influence the acceptance of the
characteristics presented in the disparaging jokes. Hence, only the participants in the
disparaging humor condition were selected (n = 111) because this question was not asked for
the neutral humor condition. We ran a t-test analyzing the perceived realism of characteristics
presented in the jokes according to group norm. In the favoring group norm condition,
participants perceived the characteristics of the students portrayed in the jokes as more
realistic when compared to the rejecting group norm (M = 5.71, SD =2.23; M = 4.03, SD =
2.23; t(109) = 3.93, p < .001).
7 General discussion
Social norms can induce conformity to communicated behavior and can shape the way people
perceive the adequate form of response in a given situation (Sanna and Berel 2001; Von
Borgstede, Dahlstrand and Biel 1999; Aarts and Dijksterhuis 2003; Bohner and Schlüter
2014; Rimal and Real 2005). The present study examined the way in which group norms
affect humor appreciation at an ingroup level. Specifically, this study investigated the
influence of group norms in the ingroup disparaging humor exposure effects. Our results
indicated that group norms affect the way in which humorous stimuli are perceived and that
norms have differential effects according to type of humor. These findings are consistent
with previous research showing that people orient their actions according to the information
provided by other group members (Cialdini, Kallgren and Reno 1991; Goldstein, Cialdini
and Griskevicius, 2008; Bohner, Siebler and Schmelcher, 2006). The study showed that
group norms had an effect on humor appreciation such that participants tended to perceive
humor as funnier when the group norm was favoring than when was it was rejecting
Disparaging Neutral
Funinness Scores
(Hypothesis 1). When exposed to disparaging humor (but not neutral humor) and favoring
group norm, participants considered ingroup disparaging humor to be funnier than when
presented with a rejecting group norm (Hypothesis 2). Additionally, besides changes on
humor appreciation, group norms also influence the way in which group members perceive
stereotypes regarding their own group. Following this idea, participants more favorably
accepted the negative characteristics presented in the disparaging jokes as more realistic
when group norm was favoring that when it was rejecting (Hypothesis 3). In this sense, a
rejecting group norm acts as relevant information for shaping ingroup disparaging humor
Also, it is important to say that little research has considered other groups that are not
based on gender for ingroup disparaging humor research (Abrams and Bippus 2011;
Kochersberger et al. 2014). Our research first selected adequate stimuli and then specifically
addressed this issue with a different ingroup, showing more evidence of the negative potential
of disparaging humor on an ingroups evaluation. Furthermore, a groups norms act as
regulatory information about the way humor is perceived. Specifically, our research points
out that when taking into account the content of humor, in this case disparaging ingroup
humor, group norms play a role in orienting how group members should react to humor in
terms of perceived funniness.
These results suggest that (at least when it comes to ingroup disparaging humor)
group norms play a key role in stabilizing a standard of funniness perception and orienting
the way in which group members perceive and appreciate humor that disparages their group.
Similar results have been found in canned laughter research (Martin and Gray 1996; Platow
et al. 2005); nevertheless, in this case the presented humorous material has no ingroup-related
content. In our study, the manipulation of group norms affected primarily disparaging humor,
suggesting that when a joke’s content is sensible to an ingroup’s image, group norms are
revealed to be an important factor in humor appreciation.
In general, our results lend support to the benign violation theory (Warren and
McGraw 2016; McGraw and Warren 2010), which argues that humor is socially constructed
and relies on the violation of social norms (Lynch 2002; McGraw and Warren 2010). In this
regard, humor can be used to challenge a societal norm while remaining relatively non-
threatening. In the case of ingroup disparaging humor, when a group norm accepting humor
is made salient, stereotypes are also more accepted and funniness of the material is shared.
Examining the group effects of disparaging humor is important because even though
most of the time humor can influence people to act in a prosocial way by expressing empathy,
friendliness, or politeness, (Kuiper, Kirsh and Leite 2010; Provine 2000; Robinson and
Smith-Lovin 2001; Ziv 2010), it may also serve as a means of reinforcing social norms of
hierarchy, expressing control, power and hostility toward others, and maintaining division
between groups (Kuipers 2011; Robinson and Smith-Lovin 2001; Sayre 2001).
Our research argues than when it comes to ingroup disparaging humor, group norms
are involved as a relevant factor. In this sense, further research might explore the potential
role of group norms in changing ingroup beliefs about some forms of disparaging humor as
sexist humor or racist humor, which research has pointed out groups are less prone to
confront (Woodzicka, Mallett, Shelbi and Pruitt 2015). Group norm salience could modify
the perceived appropriateness of these responses and empower group members to counter
argue that disparaging humor is offensive or discriminatory.
This study has certain limitations worth recognizing. One is that in the present
research participants were exposed to descriptive norms in a written form. Even though
research has found support for the effectiveness of this manipulation (Sanna and Berel 2001;
Von Borgstede, Dahlstrand and Biel 1999), this makes us cautious about the generalizability
of the present findings. In the future, it will be therefore important to replicate the present
results using others forms of manipulating group norms (i.e., specific verbal instructions or
prerecorded laughter).
A second limitation is the nature of the stimuli we used. It is also important to consider
that material’s format was presented also in a written way. It would be interesting to analyze
what would happen if different disparaging humor forms were used (e.g., videos or social
interaction) or if the material had been presented in different contexts (e.g., university
classroom or cafeteria) or in the presence of out-group members (e.g., university professors
or concierge staff).
Future research can examine whether the marginally significant interaction that we
found can be stronger with other disparaging humor types (e.g., sexist or anti-gay humor).
Additionally, considering other important factors in humor appreciation (e.g. group
identification or source of the joke) would be relevant to corroborate these results.
All in all, this study presents a fresh line of research: the relationship between group
norms and disparaging humor exposure. It constitutes a first step in the study of how group
norms can modify perceived funniness of ingroup disparaging humor. Additionally, group
norms shape the effects of ingroup disparaging humor on the perception of stereotypical
characteristics of the ingroup and contribute to maintaining a biased and stereotyped vision
of the ingroup.
Aarts, Henk & Ap Dijksterhuis. 2003. The silence of the library: Environment, situational
norms, and social behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84. 18-28.
Antony J. Chapman. 1973. Funniness of Jokes, Canned Laughter and Recall Performance.
Sociometry, 36 (4). 569-578.
Attardo, Salvadore. 1993. Violation of Conversational Maxims and Cooperation: The Case
of Jokes. Journal of Pragmatics 19. 537–58.
Argüello, Catalina, Hugo, Carretero-Dios, Guillermo, B. Willis, & Miguel Moya. 2016.
Joking about ourselves: Effects of disparaging humor on ingroup stereotyping. Group
Processes & Intergroup Relations, 1– 16.
Bem, Daryl J. 1972. Self-Perception Theory. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology
6. 1-62.
Berlyne, Daniel E. 1972. Humor and Its Kin. The Psychology of Humor. 43–60.
Bohner, Gerd & Lena E. Schlüter. 2014. A Room with a Viewpoint Revisited: Descriptive
Norms and Hotel GuestsTowel Reuse Behavior. PLoS ONE 9 (8). e106606.
Bohner, Gerd, Afroditi Pina, G.Tendayi Viki & Frank Siebler. 2010. Using social norms to
reduce men’s rape proclivity: perceived rape myth acceptance of out-groups may be
more influential than that of in-groups. Psychology, Crime & Law 16 (8). 671–93.
Bohner, Gerd, Frank Siebler, F. & Jürgen Schmelcher. 2006. Social norms and the
likelihood of raping: Perceived rape myth acceptance of others affects men's rape
proclivity. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 32. 286-297.
Carretero-Dios, Hugo, Cristiano Pérez, & Gualberto Buela. 2006. Dimensiones de La
Apreciación Del Humor. Psicothema 18 (3). 465–70.
Carretero-Dios, Hugo, Cristino Pérez, & Gualberto Buela-Casal. 2009. Content Validity
and Metric Properties of a Pool of Items Developed to Assess Humor Appreciation.
The Spanish Journal of Psychology 12 (2). 773–87.
Cialdini, Robert. B. 1993. Social influence: Science and practice (3rd ed). New York:
Harper Collins.
Cialdini, Robert B., Carl A. Kallgren, & Raymond R. Reno. 1991. A Focus Theory of
Normative Conduct: A Theoretical Refinement and Reevaluation of the Role of Norms
in Human Behavior. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology 24. 201–34.
Cialdini, Robert B., Raymond R. Reno & Carl A. Kallgren 1990. A Focus Theory of
Normative Conduct: Recycling the Concept of Norms to Reduce Littering in Public
Places. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 58 (6). 1015–26.
Cialdini, Robert. B. & Trost, Melanie. R. 1998. Social influence: Social norms, conformity,
and compliance. In Daniel. T. Gilbert, Susan. T. Fiske, & Gardner. Lindzey (eds.),
Handbook of social psychology (4th ed., Vol. 2), pp.151-192. Boston, MA: McGraw-
Crandall, Christian S, Amy Eshleman, & Laurie O’Brien. 2002. Social Norms and the
Expression and Suppression of Prejudice: The Struggle for Internalization. Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology 82 (3). 359–78.
Donoghue, E. E., McCarrey, N., & Clement, R. 1983. Humour appreciation as a function of
canned laughter, a mirthful companion, and field dependence: Facilitation and
inhibitory effects. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science 15. 150-162
Esses, Victoria M., & Mark P. Zanna. 1995. Mood and the Expression of Ethnic
Stereotypes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 69 (6). 1052–68.
Fein, Steven, George R. Goethals & Matthew B. Kugler 2007. Social Influence on Political
Judgments: The Case of Presidential Debates. Political Psychology 28 (2). 165–92.
Fein, Steven, George R. Goethals, and Matthew B. Kugler. 2007. Social Influence on
Political Judgments: The Case of Presidential Debates. Political Psychology 28 (2).
Ferguson, Mark. A. & Thomas. E. Ford. 2008. Disparagement Humor: A Theoretical and
Empirical Review of Psychoanalytic, Superiority, and Social Identity Theories. Humor:
International Journal of Humor Research 21. 283–312.
Ford, T. E., J A Woodzicka, S. R. Triplett, A. O. Kochersberger, and C. J. Holden. 2013. Not
All Groups Are Equal: Differential Vulnerability of Social Groups to the Prejudice-
Releasing Effects of Disparagement Humor. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations
17 (2). 178–99.
Ford, Thomas E, & Mark A Ferguson. 2004. Social Consequences of Disparagement
Humor. Personality and Social Psychology Review 8 (1). 79–94.
Ford, Thomas E, Christie F Boxer, Jacob Armstrong, & Jessica R Edel. 2008. More Than
‘just a Joke’: The Prejudice-Releasing Function of Sexist Humor. Personality and
Social Psychology Bulletin 34 (2). 159–70.
Ford, Thomas E. 2000. Effects of Sexist Humor on Tolerance of Sexist Events. Personality
and Social Psychology Bulletin 26 (9). 1094–1107.
Ford, Thomas E., Christie F. Boxer, Jacob Armstrong & Jessica R. Edel. 2008. More than
‘Just a Joke’: The Prejudice-Releasing Function of Sexist Humor. Personality and
Social Psychology Bulletin 34 (2). 159-170.
Ford, Thomas E., Kyle Richardson & Whitney E. Petit. 2015. Disparagement Humor and
Prejudice: Contemporary Theory and Research. Humor: International Journal of
Humor Research 28 (2). 171–86.
Ford, Thomas. E., Julie A. Woodzicka, Shane R. Triplett, Annie O. Kochersberger &
Christopher J. Holden 2013. Not All Groups Are Equal: Differential Vulnerability of
Social Groups to the Prejudice-Releasing Effects of Disparagement Humor. Group
Processes & Intergroup Relations 17 (2). 178–99.
Fridlund, Alan J. 1991. Sociality of solitary smiling: Potentiation by an implicit audience.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 60. 229-240.
Fuller, Raymond. G. C. & Alan Sheehy- Skeffigton A. 1974. Effects of group laughter on
responses to humorous material, a replication and extension. Psychological Reports 33.
Furnham, Adrian, Ella Hutson, & Alastaire McClelland. 2011. The Effect of Gender of
Canned Laughter on Television Programme Appreciation. North American Journal of
Psychology 13 (3). 391–402.
Goldstein, Noah J., Robert B. Cialdini & Vladas Griskevicius. 2008. A Room with a
Viewpoint: Using Social Norms to Motivate Environmental Conservation in Hotels.
Journal of Consumer Research 35 (3). 472–82.
Goldstein, Noah J., Robert B. Cialdini, & Vladas Griskevicius. 2008. A Room with a
Viewpoint: Using Social Norms to Motivate Environmental Conservation in Hotels.
Journal of Consumer Research 35 (3). 472–82.
Graham, Elizabeth E., Michael J. Papa & Gordon P. Brooks. 1992. Functions of Humor in
Conversation: Conceptualization and Measurement. Western Journal of
Communication 56 (1). 161–83.
Gray, Jared Alan, & Thomas E. Ford. 2013. The Role of Social Context in the Interpretation
of Sexist Humor. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research 26 (2). 277–93.
Gruner, Charles. R. 1993. Audience’s response to jokes in speeches with and without
recorded laughs. Psychological Reports 7. 347–350.
Hogg, Michael. A., & Smith, Joane. R. 2007. Attitudes in social context: A social identity
perspective. European Review of Social Psychology, 18, 89-131.
Jacobson, Ryan. P., Cialdini Robert. B., & Mortensen, Chad. R. (2010). Bodies obliged and
unbound: Differentiated Response Tendencies for Injunctive and Descriptive Social
Norms. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 100(3).433-48.
Kelley, Harold H. 1973. The Process of Causal Attribution. American Psychologist 28
Kinder, Donald R. & Katherine W. Drake. 2009. Myrdal’s Prediction. Political Psychology
30 (4). 539–68.
Kochersberger, Annie O., Thomas E. Ford, Julie A Woodzicka, Monica Romero-Sanchez, &
Hugo Carretero-Dios. 2014. The Role of Identification with Women as a Determinant
of Amusement with Sexist Humor. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research
27 (3). 441–60.
Kuipers, Giselide. 2008. The sociology of humor. In Victor Raskin (Ed.), The primer of
humor research (365-402). (Humor research; No. 8). Berlin/New York: Mouton de
Kuipers,Giselinde. 2009. Humor styles and symbolic boundaries. Journal of Literary
Theory, 3(2), 219-239.
Maio, Gregory R., James M. Olson & Jacqueline E. Bush. 1997. Telling Jokes That
Disparage Social Groups: Effects on the joke teller’s stereotypes. Journal of Applied
Social Psychology 27 (22). 1986–2000.
Martin, G. Neil & Colin D. Gray. 1996. The effects of audience laughter on men’s and
women’s responses to humor. Journal of Social Psychology 136(2). 221–231.
Martin, Rod A., & Nicholas A. Kuiper. 1999. Daily occurrence of laughter: relationships
with age, gender, and type A personality. Humor: International Journal of Humor
Research 12 (4). 355–84.
Martin, Rod. A. 1998. Approaches to the sense of humor: A historical review. In W. Ruch
(Ed.), The sense of humor: Explorations of personality characteristics, pp. 15-60.
Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
McDonald, Rachel I., and Christian S. Crandall. 2015. Social Norms and Social Influence.
Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences 3. 147–51.
McGhee, P. E., Ruch, W. & Hehl, F. J. 1990. A personality-based model of humor
development during adulthood. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research 3.
McGraw, A. P., & C. Warren. 2010. Benign Violations: Making Immoral Behavior Funny.
Psychological Science 21 (8). 1141–49.
Melnyk V, van Herpen E, Fischer AR, & van Trijp HC. 2013. Regulatory fit effects for
injunctive versus descriptive social norms: evidence from the promotion of sustainable
products. Marketing Letters 24, 191-203.
Nolan, Jessica M, P Wesley Schultz, Robert B Cialdini, Noah J Goldstein, & Vladas
Griskevicius. 2008. Normative Social Influence Is Underdetected. Personality & Social
Psychology Bulletin 34 (7). 913–23.
Olson, James M., & Neal J. Roese. 1995. The perceived funniness of humorous stimuli.
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 21. 908–13.
Parks, Craig. D., Lawrence J. Sanna & Susan R. Berel 2001. Actions of similar others as
inducements to cooperate in social dilemmas. Personality and Social Psychology
Bulletin 27. 345-354.
Petty, Richard E., Jhon T. Cacioppo, & Rachel Goldman 1981. Personal involvement as
determinant of argument based persuasion. Journal of Personality and Social
Psychology 41(5). 847-855.
Platow, Michael J., S. Alexander Haslam, Amanda Both, Ivanne Chew, Michelle Cuddon,
Nahal Goharpey, Jacqui Maurer, Simone Rosini, Anna Tsekouras & Diana M. Grace.
2005. It’s Not Funny If They're Laughing’: Self-Categorization, Social Influence, and
Responses to Canned Laughter. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 41 (5).
Porterfield, A. L., Mayer, F. S., Dougherty, K. G., Kredich, K. E., Kronberg, M. M.,
Marsee, K. M., & Okazala, Y. 1988. Private self-consciousness, canned laughter and
responses to humorous stimuli. Journal of Research in Personality 22. 409-2433.
Provine, Robert R, & Kenneth R Fischer. 1989. Laughing smiling and talking relation to
sleeping and social context in humans. Ethology 83. 295–305.
Provine, Robert. R. 2000. Laughter: A Scientific Investigation. New York: Viking.
Rimal, Rajiv N. & Kevin Real. 2005. How Behaviors Are Influenced by Perceived Norms:
A Test of the Theory of Normative Social Behavior. Communication Research 32 (3).
Rimal, Rajiv N., & Kevin Real. 2005. How Behaviors Are Influenced by Perceived Norms:
A Test of the Theory of Normative Social Behavior. Communication Research 32 (3).
Romero-Sánchez, Mónica, Mercedes Durán, Hugo Carretero-Dios, Jesús L. Megías &
Miguel Moya. 2010. Exposure to Sexist Humor and Rape Proclivity: The Moderator
Effect of Aversiveness Ratings. Journal of Interpersonal Violence 25 (12). 2339–50.
Ruch, Willibald, & Franz-Josef Hehl. 1983. Intolerance of ambiguity as a factor in the
appreciation of humour. Personality and Individual Differences 4(5). 443–449.
Ruch, Willibald, & Franz-Josef Hehl. 2010. A Two-Mode Model of Humor Appreciation:
It’s Relation to Aesthetic Appreciation and Simplicity-Complexity of Personality. In
Ruch, Willibald (ed.) The Sense of Humor: Explorations of a Personality
Characteristic, 109–42. Berlin, Germany: Mouton de Gruyter.
Ruch, Willibald, & Tracey Platt. 2014. Separating Content and Structure in Humor
Appreciation : The Need for a Bimodal Model and Support from Research into
Aesthetics. In Salvatore Attardo (ed.) Encyclopedia of Humor Studies, 52–55. London:
SAGE Publications Ltd.
Ruch, Willibald. 2007. The Sense of Humor: Explorations of a Personality Characteristic.
Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Schultz, Paul W. 1999. Changing behavior with normative feedback interventions: A field
experiment on curbside recycling. Basic and Applied Social Psychology 21. 25-36.
Shiki, Y. 2006. The effects of conformity to others and role expectations of entertainers on
humor responses. Japanese Journal of Social Psychology 22(2). 189-199.
Smith, Joanne, R. & Louis, Winnifred R. 2009. Group Norms and the Attitude–Behaviour
Relationship. Social and Personality Psychology Compass 3(1). 19–35.
Terry, Deborah. J. & Michael A. Hogg 1996. Group norms and the attitude- behavior
relationship: A role for group identification. Personality and Social Psychology
Bulletin 22 (8). 776-793.4
Terry, Deborah. J., Michael A. Hogg & Katherine M. White 1999. The theory of planned
behavior: Self-identity, social identity and group norms. British Journal of Social
Psychology 38. 225-244.
Thomae, Manuela & Afroditi Pina. 2015. Sexist Humour and Social Identity. Humor:
International Journal of Humor Research 44. 1–22.
Turner, Jhon. C. 1991. Social influence. Milton Keynes, UK: Open University Press.
Viki, G. Tendayi., Manuela Thomae, Amy Cullen, & Hannah Fernandez. 2007. The effect
of sexist humor and type of rape on men's self-reported rape proclivity and victim
blame. Current Research in Social Psychology 13(10). 122-132.
Von Borgstede, Chris, Ulf Dahlstrand & Anders Biel. 1999. From ought to is: Moral norms
in large-scale social dilemmas. Goteborg Psychological Reports 29(2). 1-19.
Warren, Caleb & Peter A. McGraw. 2014. Appreciation of Humor. In Salvatore Attardo
(ed.) Encyclopedia of Humor Studies, 52–55. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.
Warren, Caleb, & A. Peter McGraw. 2016. Differentiating What Is Humorous from What Is
Not. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 110 (3). 407–30.
Weber, Marco, Willibald Ruch, Rainer Riemann, Frank M. Spinath, & Alois Angleitner.
2014. A Twin Study on Humor Appreciation. Journal of Individual Differences 35 (3).
Wellen, Jackie. M., Michael A Hogg & Deborah J. Terry 1998. Group norms and attitude-
behavior consistency: The role of group salience and mood. Group Dynamics: Theory,
Research, and Practice 2(1). 48-56.
Catalina Argüello Gutiérrez has a PhD from the School of Psychology at the University of
Granada (Spain). She received her doctoral training in social psychology and methodology.
Her research interests include social functions of humour on intergroup relations, and applied
health and community psychology.
Hugo Carretero-Dios is a senior lecturer in research methods in psychology in the
Department Methodology in Behavioural Sciences at the University of Granada (Spain). His
research interests include the test construction/adaptation, and examining the role of humor
as a social and individual difference variable.
Guillermo B. Willis is a senior lecturer in psychology in the Department Social Psychology
at the University of Granada (Spain). His research interests include intergroup relations,
organizational psychology and social inequality.
Miguel Moya Morales is a professor in psychology in the Department Social Psychology at
the University of Granada (Spain). His research interests include stereotyping and prejudice,
psychological impact of economic inequalities
... More specifically, McGraw and Warren (2010) show that humor is considered benign as a result of a normative environment in which the violated norm is not important/salient and an alternative norm exists that allows for violations, as well as psychological distance to the violation. Disparaging jokes are thus an interesting phenomenon in which violations as severe as derogating someone directly are nonetheless considered benign, at least by some individuals (see Allison et al., 2019 andArgüello et al., 2018a for recent lines of evidence supporting the premises of BVT in disparagement humor). This directly results in the question -who considers disparaging jokes benign and in which situations? ...
Full-text available
A lot of popular comedians are known for their transgressive humor towards social groups, but disparagement humor is not just restricted to stages or media performances. We encounter it everywhere or perhaps use it ourselves. In this paper, we were interested in how people react to disparaging jokes (i.e., homophobic jokes) across different relational settings. Adapting Fiske´s relational models theory, we examined how status differences in relationships affect the perception of and cognition about socially disparaging jokes. In Study 1 (N = 77), we piloted seven potentially disparaging jokes about gay men in relation to how they are perceived. In Study 2 (N = 288), using one joke from Study 1, we constructed vignettes manipulating the sexual orientation of the source of the joke in the dyad (i.e., heterosexual, gay, both heterosexual) and their status differences across relational models (i.e., high, equal, and low status). We found that the joke was perceived to be less funny, more offensive, and more morally wrong, and to contain more harm intent if it came from a heterosexual person rather than a gay person. Study 3 (N = 197) used concrete status differences in relationships in terms of existing intergroup dimensions. Results showed that the joke was perceived as more offensive, less acceptable and more morally wrong when it came from a high authority source (e.g., professor rather than a student). Overall, these findings bring the first evidence to link disparagement humor with relational models and show the importance status differences in the perception of disparagement humor.
... This is closely linked with recent research that has shown that exposure to humorous forms of disparagement (i.e., sexist, racist or anti-gay jokes) lead to an increase in expression of prejudice toward target groups (e.g., O'Connor et al., 2017;Saucier et al., 2016;Woodzicka & Ford, 2010). According to the benign-violation theory hypothesis, such effects may occur because in the humorous context, the moral violation (i.e., denigrate a social group) is perceived as benign (see Gutiérrez et al., 2018;Thai et al., 2019, for a similar interpretation). ...
Full-text available
The influence of dark humor on moral judgment has never been explored, even though this form of humor is well-known to push the boundaries of social norms. In the present study, we examined whether the presence of dark humor leads female participants to approve a utilitarian response (i.e., to kill one to save many) in sacrificial dilemmas. The effects of two types of humorous contexts were compared (i.e., dark vs. nondark) on dilemmas, which differed according to whom benefits from the crime (i.e., oneself and others vs. others only). In addition to collecting moral responses, individuals’ emotional states were assessed at three critical steps: Before and after reading the jokes and also after performing the moral judgment task. Our results revealed that dark and nondark humor similarly elicited a positive emotional state. However, dark humor increased the permissiveness of the moral violation when this violation created benefits for oneself. In self and other beneficial dilemmas, female participants in the dark humorous condition judged the utilitarian response more appropriate than those in the nondark condition. This study represents a first attempt in deepening our understanding of the context-dependent nature of moral judgment usually assessed in sacrificial dilemmas.
Despite the broad importance of humor, psychologists do not agree on the basic elements that cause people to experience laughter, amusement, and the perception that something is funny. There are more than 20 distinct psychological theories that propose appraisals that characterize humor appreciation. Most of these theories leverage a subset of five potential antecedents of humor appreciation: surprise, simultaneity, superiority, a violation appraisal, and conditions that facilitate a benign appraisal. We evaluate each antecedent against the existing empirical evidence and find that simultaneity, violation, and benign appraisals all help distinguish humorous from nonhumorous experiences, but surprise and superiority do not. Our review helps organize a disconnected literature, dispel popular but inaccurate ideas, offers a framework for future research, and helps answer three long-standing questions about humor: what conditions predict laughter and amusement, what are the adaptive benefits of humor, and why do different people think vastly different things are humorous?
Full-text available
This field experiment increased the frequency of curbside recycling among community residents using feedback interventions that targeted personal and social norms. My team of researchers observed curbside recycling behaviors of 605 residents of single-family dwellings for 17 weeks. Groups of contiguous houses were randomly assigned to 1 of 5 experimental conditions: plea, plea plus information, plea plus neighborhood feedback, plea plus individual household feedback, or the control condition. Interventions were implemented using door hangers delivered to each household over a 4-week period. Results showed significant increases from baseline in the frequency of participation and total amount of recycled material for the individual (i.e., personal norm) and the group feedback (i.e., descriptive norm) interventions. None of the interventions altered the amount of contamination observed. These findings are interpreted as consistent with recent research on personal and social norms and suggest a link between behavior change produced through norm activation and behavior change produced through feedback. Implications for research and public policy are discussed.
Full-text available
In three studies, we examined whether ingroup disparaging humor leads to greater stereotyping of the ingroup. First, in Study 1, (n = 101) university students were exposed to: a) ingroup disparaging humor, b) neutral humor or c) ingroup disparaging information. Participants exposed to disparaging humor reported more stereotypic evaluations than those in the neutral humor or disparaging text condition. Study 2 (n = 167) replicated these findings with humor conditions (disparaging vs. neutral) and showed that ingroup identification moderated the effects of the type of humor. Low identifiers exposed to ingroup disparaging humor (vs. those in the control condition) reported a greater frequency of stereotypic evaluations, whereas the manipulation did not affect high identifiers. Finally Study 3 (n = 153) also manipulated the source of the jokes. As in Study 2, we found an interaction effect showing that high identifiers were not affected by the manipulation, whereas for low identifiers disparaging humor increased stereotyping and lead to more negative emotions toward the ingroup. No significant effects were found for source of the jokes. We discuss findings in terms of how the traditional pattern of humor facilitating outgroup stereotyping also seems to apply to ingroup stereotyping.
After 2.5 millennia of philosophical deliberation and psychological experimentation, most scholars have concluded that humor arises from incongruity. We highlight 2 limitations of incongruity theories of humor. First, incongruity is not consistently defined. The literature describes incongruity in at least 4 ways: surprise, juxtaposition, atypicality, and a violation. Second, regardless of definition, incongruity alone does not adequately differentiate humorous from nonhumorous experiences. We suggest revising incongruity theory by proposing that humor arises from a benign violation: something that threatens a person's well-being, identity, or normative belief structure but that simultaneously seems okay. Six studies, which use entertainment, consumer products, and social interaction as stimuli, reveal that the benign violation hypothesis better differentiates humorous from nonhumorous experiences than common conceptualizations of incongruity. A benign violation conceptualization of humor improves accuracy by reducing the likelihood that joyous, amazing, and tragic situations are inaccurately predicted to be humorous. (PsycINFO Database Record