Humorous Complaining

64 Pages Posted: 15 Apr 2015  

A. Peter McGraw

University of Colorado at Boulder - Department of Marketing

Caleb Warren

Texas A&M University - Department of Marketing

Christina Kan

University of Colorado at Boulder - Leeds School of Business

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: August 21, 2014

Abstract

Although complaints document dissatisfaction, some are also humorous. The paper introduces the concept of humorous complaining and draws on the benign violation theory – which proposes that humor arises from things that seem simultaneously wrong yet okay – to examine how being humorous helps and hinders complainers. Six studies show that humorous complaints benefit people who want to warn, entertain, and make a favorable impression on others. Further, in contrast to the belief that humor is beneficial but consistent with the benign violation theory, humor makes complaints seem more positive (by making an expression of dissatisfaction seem okay), but makes praise seem more negative (by making an expression of satisfaction seem wrong in some way). Finally, a benign violation approach also reveals that complaining humorously has costs. Because being humorous suggests that a dissatisfying situation is okay, humorous complaints are less likely to elicit redress or sympathy from others than non-humorous complaints.

Keywords: humor, complaining, consumer, marketing, amusement

JEL Classification: M03

Suggested Citation

McGraw, A. Peter and Warren, Caleb and Kan, Christina, Humorous Complaining (August 21, 2014). Journal of Consumer Research, Forthcoming; Mays Business School Research Paper No. 2534475. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2534475 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2534475

A. Peter McGraw (Contact Author)

University of Colorado at Boulder - Department of Marketing ( email )

United States

Caleb Warren

Texas A&M University - Department of Marketing ( email )

430 Wehner
College Station, TX 77843-4218
United States

Christina Kan

University of Colorado at Boulder - Leeds School of Business ( email )

Boulder, CO 80309-0419
United States

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