Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Rod Martin


Despite research and theory that suggest that humor is a social phenomenon, empirical

investigations in the field of humor have largely ignored the interpersonal context in which humor is expressed. Little is known about the relation between social uses of humor and indices of both personal and social well-being. As such, the primary aim of the present dissertation was to observationally rate humor styles exhibited during discussions between friends, and evaluate whether they are related to individuals’ ability to cope with stress and develop and maintain satisfactory relationships. In the three studies within this dissertation, humor was rated using the observational rating scheme developed by Campbell, Martin and Ward (2008). These ratings were based on the model of humor styles developed by Martin, Puhlik-Doris, Larsen, Gray, & Weir (2003), which differentiates between affiliative, self­

enhancing, aggressive and self-defeating humor. Two samples of university undergraduate students participated in these studies (N = 100 and N = 188). Study 1 assessed the links between humor and negative affect following the discussion about the stressor, as well as the association between humor styles and individual difference variables reflecting social adjustment. Study 2a examined the associations between humor styles and the nature of the friends’ topic of discussion, along with the relation between humor and post-discussion ratings of affect and feelings of closeness. Study 2b was an investigation of the relation between humor and post-discussion ratings of perspective change and avoidance, and also evaluated the associations between observed humor and self-reported coping styles. Overall, the results of these investigations suggest that affiliative and self-enhancing humor function to enhance individuals’ capacity to cope effectively and improve the quality of their social


interactions and relationships. The findings also indicated that the interpersonal expression of aggressive and self-defeating humor was associated with poorer social adjustment. In addition, aggressive humor may improve mood and increase feelings of closeness between friends, but only when it is directed at people or objects outside of the social interaction. Taken together, these results support the view that humor styles expressed in social contexts serve important fonctions, resulting in both beneficial and potentially harmful outcomes.



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