People who frequently crack jokes about themselves to gain approval of others have greater levels of psychological well-being, a study has found. The findings, published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, contradict some of the research carried out to date in the psychology of humour.
Up until now, a significant deal of the research literature has suggested that self-defeating humour is exclusively associated with negative psychological effects among individuals who regularly employ this style of humour. “In particular, we have observed that a greater tendency to employ self-defeating humour is indicative of high scores in psychological well-being dimensions such as happiness and, to a lesser extent, sociability,” said Jorge Torres Marin from University of Granada in Spain.
“The results, as well as being consistent with the positive connotations traditionally attributed to the act of ‘laughing at oneself’ in our country, also suggest that the effects of self-defeating humour on well-being may differ depending on where the research takes places,” Marin said. “Consequently, we believe it is necessary to conduct new studies aimed at analysing potential cultural differences in the use of this kind of humour,” he said.
“Our research fits into one of the theoretical models that aim to overcome these limitations and provide the psychology of humour with a well-founded, accurate theoretical body of knowledge,” said Hugo Carretero Dios, from University of Granada.
Nonetheless, researchers also point out that certain styles of humour may be employed to conceal negative intentions and feelings. “Humour enables individuals with low scores in honesty to build trust, closeness, etc.
with other people and thereby use important information in order to manipulate them or obtain advantages in the future,” said Gines Navarro-Carrillo from University of Granada. The results regarding the relationship between the use of humour and anger management suggests that the capacity for maintaining a humorous perspective in adverse situations, ie the use of self-enhancing humour, is typically found among people who manage anger more effectively, as well as among those with lower tendencies to exhibit angry feelings or reactions.
By contrast, people who tend to use aggressive or self- defeating humour do not manage anger or rage as well. In particular, aggressive humour is mainly associated with the expression of anger towards others and a greater propensity to experience anger in everyday life.
By using aggressive humour, individuals may express negative feelings (for example, anger, superiority, hate, etc) less explicitly than they would through physical or verbal abuse, since they can allude to the humorous nature of the comments they make in order to justify them.
Self-defeating humour was linked to a greater tendency to suppress anger. However, this suppression does not necessarily mean that the anger directed at others is reduced or controlled, but rather that the triggers eliciting such angry reactions are concealed or not explicitly stated.