Humor and Coping in a Pandemic

30 Pages Posted: 2 Feb 2021 Last revised: 4 Jun 2021

See all articles by T. Bradford Bitterly

T. Bradford Bitterly

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Maurice E. Schweitzer

University of Pennsylvania - Operations & Information Management Department

Date Written: February 1, 2021

Abstract

In addition to claiming over a million lives and causing widespread economic devastation, the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered heightened feelings of anxiety in tens of millions of people. In this research, we examine the relationship between humor and coping during the COVID-19 pandemic. We conducted a longitudinal investigation across 11 time periods and find that prompting individuals to generate humorous content significantly decreased feelings of anxiety. In our investigation, we contrasted on-topic humor, humor related to the anxiety trigger, with off-topic humor; we found that although both types of humor diminish anxiety, off-topic humor was particularly effective in curtailing anxiety, boosting affect, and enhancing sense of control. In addition, we find that generating serious content unrelated to COVID-19 can also diminish anxiety and enhance a sense of control. Our findings advance our understanding of humor, emotion, and coping, and inform practical advice for navigating stressful environments.

Keywords: humor, anxiety, emotion, COVID-19

Suggested Citation

Bitterly, T. Bradford and Schweitzer, Maurice E., Humor and Coping in a Pandemic (February 1, 2021). HKUST Business School Research Paper No. 2021-012, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3776994 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3776994

T. Bradford Bitterly (Contact Author)

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology ( email )

Hong Kong

Maurice E. Schweitzer

University of Pennsylvania - Operations & Information Management Department ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States
215-898-4776 (Phone)
215-898-3664 (Fax)

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