Humorous Complaining

21 Pages Posted: 1 Feb 2015

See all articles by A. Peter McGraw

A. Peter McGraw

University of Colorado at Boulder - Department of Marketing

Caleb Warren

University of Arizona

Christina Kan

University of Colorado at Boulder - Leeds School of Business

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: January 30, 2015

Abstract

Although complaints document dissatisfaction, some are also humorous. The article 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, which use social media and online reviews as stimuli, 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 perspective 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.

Suggested Citation

McGraw, A. Peter and Warren, Caleb and Kan, Christina, Humorous Complaining (January 30, 2015). Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 41, February 2015, Mays Business School Research Paper No. 2015-16, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2558107

A. Peter McGraw

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

United States

Caleb Warren (Contact Author)

University of Arizona ( email )

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

Christina Kan

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

Boulder, CO 80309-0419
United States

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