The role of context in the interpretation of sexist humor

WCU Author/Contributor (non-WCU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Jared Alan Gray (Creator)
Western Carolina University (WCU )
Web Site:
Tom Ford

Abstract: Humor researchers have emphasized the role that sex differences and attitudes toward women play in moderating amusement with sexist humor. In-group/out-group conflict and the adherence to hostile sexist attitudes have been shown to accurately determine the evaluation of sexist humor. The present research contributes to this literature by addressing the role that the social context plays in determining whether people adopt a humor mindset versus a serious mindset for interpreting sexist humor. We hypothesized that the norms of some social contexts (office) discourage the adoption of a non-serious "humor mindset" for interpreting sexist humor, leading people to perceive the humor as offensive. In contrast, the norms of other contexts (comedy club) encourage the adoption of a non-serious humor mindset, causing people to perceive the humor as less offensive. One hundred eighteen women and 84 men were prompted to imagine themselves in a comedy club, office or neutral setting and then asked to rate both sexist and neutral jokes in terms of offensiveness. It was found that imagining oneself in a comedy club significantly reduces offensiveness ratings of sexist humor. The office context had the opposite effect, where offensiveness ratings increased. Thus the adoption of a non-critical humor mindset can be manipulated by social context. The evaluation of sexist humor is not merely a function of gender in-group/out-group differences or attitudes towards women. The social context in which the jokes were told is also an influential piece to the puzzle.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2011
Gender, Humor, Sexism, Sexist Humor, Social Context
Wit and humor
Sexism in language

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