Moral Foundation Sensitivity and Perceived Humor
20 Pages Posted: 5 Nov 2014
Date Written: July 21, 2014
The benign-violation theory of humor (McGraw & Warren, 2010) predicts that funniness should be an inverted-U function of perceived severity of violation. We tested this prediction for jokes targeting five moral foundations (Haidt & Joseph, 2004). Instead of manipulating the severity of moral violation in the jokes, we measured individual differences in moral foundation sensitivity. The data were analyzed by a hierarchical quadratic trend model with ordinal probit rating probabilities using Bayesian estimation of parameters. Results confirmed a negative quadratic trend in funniness ratings as a function of moral foundation sensitivity, affirming both the benign-violation theory of humor and the theory of moral foundations. A practical implication is that humorist should tune their jokes to the moral sensitivities of their audience with moral foundations as a structural guide. A theoretical implication is that theories of moral psychology should include humor in their purview, because some of the central functions of humor and laughter are to affiliate ingroup members, differentiate outgroup members, and mark transgressions of group norms.
Keywords: Moral psychology, moral foundation, humor, benign violation, individual differences, Bayesian
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