The impact of humor type on perceptions of trustworthiness

WCU Author/Contributor (non-WCU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Andrew R. Olah (Creator)
Western Carolina University (WCU )
Web Site:
Thomas Ford

Abstract: When we meet other people for the first time, we quickly “size them up” and form impressions of them based on social categorical variables (e.g. gender) and personal characteristics (e.g. attractive or unattractive, intelligent or dull, etc., Fiske & Neuberg, 1990; Jones, 1990). One personal characteristic that affects our initial impression of others is the way they express humor. Furthermore, we form different impressions of people based on the type of humor they express (e.g. Derks & Berkowitz, 1989). The present research endeavors to learn how different types and targets of humor influences our perceptions of a person’s trustworthiness (comprised of perceived integrity and ability to fulfill a promise). It was hypothesized that benign, nondisparaging humor would increase perceived trustworthiness, while disparaging humor would decrease perceived trustworthiness. Furthermore, it was hypothesized that the target of disparaging humor would affect how much the humor affects trustworthiness perceptions. In each of three studies, participants view a video of a new addition to their workplace and evaluate that person’s trustworthiness along the dimensions of ability and integrity. In Study 1, the videos differ by the type of humor (e.g. nondisparaging, other-disparaging, self-disparaging, no humor) displayed by the person. Study 2 and Study 3 explore the boundary conditions for the effects of other-disparaging humor by manipulating the target of the humor, deriving targets from the Normative Window Model (Study 2; Crandall, Ferguson, & Bahns, 2013) and Social Identity Theory (Study 3; Tajfel & Turner, 1986). Study 1 provides no evidence that humor increases perceptions of the joker’s trustworthiness, but does show that other-disparaging humor can have a detrimental effect. Results from Study 2 and Study 3 provides evidence that disparaging humor against some targets have less of a detrimental effect than others.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2019
Disparagement Humor, Humor, Impression Formation, Integrity, Trust, Trustworthiness
Wit and humor -- Psychological aspects
Wit and humor -- Social aspects
First impression (Psychology)

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