The Rise and Fall of Humor: Psychological Distance Modulates Humorous Responses to Tragedy

Social Psychological and Personality Science, 2014, 5: 566

Mays Business School Research Paper No. 2015-13

9 Pages Posted: 1 Feb 2015

See all articles by A. Peter McGraw

A. Peter McGraw

University of Colorado at Boulder - Department of Marketing

Lawrence Williams

University of Colorado at Boulder

Caleb Warren

University of Arizona

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: 2014

Abstract

Humor is a ubiquitous experience that facilitates coping, social coordination, and well-being. We examine how humorous responses to a tragedy change over time by measuring reactions to jokes about Hurricane Sandy. Inconsistent with the belief that the passage of time monotonically increases humor, but consistent with the benign violation theory of humor, a longitudinal study reveals that humorous responses to Sandy’s destruction rose, peaked, and eventually fell over the course of 100 days. Time creates a comedic sweet spot that occurs when the psychological distance from a tragedy is large enough to buffer people from threat(creating a benign violation) but not so large that the event becomes a purely benign, nonthreatening situation. The finding can help psychologists understand how people cope and provide clues to what makes things funny and when they will be funny.

Keywords: humor, psychological distance, time, emotion, coping

Suggested Citation

McGraw, A. Peter and Williams, Lawrence and Warren, Caleb, The Rise and Fall of Humor: Psychological Distance Modulates Humorous Responses to Tragedy (2014). Social Psychological and Personality Science, 2014, 5: 566, Mays Business School Research Paper No. 2015-13, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2558066

A. Peter McGraw

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

United States

Lawrence Williams

University of Colorado at Boulder ( email )

1070 Edinboro Drive
Boulder, CO 80309
United States

Caleb Warren (Contact Author)

University of Arizona ( email )

McClelland Hall
P.O. Box 210108
Tucson, AZ 85721-0108
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
137
Abstract Views
873
rank
181,365
PlumX Metrics