People who don’t take themselves too seriously tend to have greater psychological well-being, according to study on humor
02/27/2018 // Zoey Sky // Views

According to a recent study, people who often use self-deprecating humor have "greater levels of psychological well-being."

However, the University of Granada's (UGR) findings, which were published in the international journal Personality and Individual Differences, contradict some of the research carried out concerning in the psychology of humor.

To date, the bulk of the research literature implies that self-defeating humor is exclusively associated with negative psychological effects among individuals who regularly employ this style of humor.

Jorge Torres Marín, a researcher who belongs to the team that worked on the "groundbreaking UGR project," says that based on their observations, the use of self-defeating humor often indicates "high scores in psychological well-being dimensions" like happiness and, to a smaller extent, sociability."

Torres-Marín adds that the results are consistent with the positive implications often linked to the ability to laugh at oneself, and it also implies that the influence of self-defeating humor on well-being can change based on the location of the research. The researchers also noted that new studies could help look into the "potential cultural differences in the use of this kind of humor."

A good sense of humor can even help reduce stress hormones, and it can even boost the immune system. Laughing can also improve your "overall sense of well-being," and according to experts, individuals who have a more positive outlook on life have a higher chance of protecting themselves from diseases.


In earlier studies, the significance of "cultural or individual differences" when it comes to "senses of humor" wasn't clearly addressed in psychological research for two main reasons. One, the "comical nature of humor" influences the bias of both researchers and readers of specialized scientific literature. These "preconceived ideas" can change their judgment when it comes to "assessing the quality, relevance, and applicability of humor-related data."

Second, the different comments, behaviors, etc. which are considered "humorous" has hindered the creation of a consistent theoretical framework that will unite the information collected to date in the scientific literature.

Hugo Carretero Dios, a co-author of the study, states that their team wishes to prove that their research fits into one of the theoretical models that can overcome these limitations and "impart" on the psychology of humor a "well-founded, accurate theoretical body of knowledge." Doing so can help experts learn about the different behavioral tendencies linked to the everyday use of humor, which can then be categorized more specifically based on their adaptive nature instead of the harmful.

Adaptive styles of humor include affiliative humor, which intends to improve social relationships. Self-enhancing humor aims to maintain a humorous outlook in "potentially stressful" and negative situations. These types of humor are often associated with indicators of positive psychological well-being like "happiness, satisfaction with life, hope, etc.," but they are also linked to more negative states such as "depression and anxiety." (Related: Don’t Take Life Too Seriously – A Healthy Sense of Humor May Prolong Your Life.)

The researchers assert that the "data revealed the existence of a curvilinear relationship between pro-social humor and personality dimensions such as kindness and honesty." This link indicates that low and high scores due to certain personality traits are often connected to either "lower or higher propensities to make humorous comments" that can help build and strengthen "social relationships."

The scientists also discussed certain styles of humor that people can use to hide negative intentions and feelings. According to Ginés Navarro-Carrillo, the results of their study show that despite a "benign or well-intentioned" facade, humor may also be used to hide negative intentions. With humor, people who have low honesty scores can still establish trust and closeness with others, even using sensitive data to exploit them.

Meanwhile, the results regarding the link between the use of humor and anger management imply that the ability to remain good-humored despite trying times is often evident in people who are better at managing their anger and in those who have lower tendencies to express any "angry feelings or reactions."

On the other hand, individuals who employ aggressive or self-defeating humor aren't as capable of managing their anger or rage. In fact, aggressive humor is connected with "the expression of anger towards others" and a greater disposition of feeling anger in daily life.

Through the use of aggressive humor, people can express negative feelings (like anger, superiority, or hate) more discreetly, unlike physical or verbal abuse, because they can reason that the humorous nature of the comments excuses the negativity.

Self-defeating humor is tied to an inclination to "suppress anger." But this suppression doesn't mean that the anger directed at others is restrained, it's just that the triggers that prompt the angry reactions are masked or not as pronounced.

Torres-Marín and Navarro-Carrillo conclude that the team wishes to look into the connection between unique differences in how we use humor and other psychological variables of interest. They add that their research had the following goals:

  1. To give the scientific community access to a measuring tool that can gauge "different styles of humor" in the Spanish population,
  2. To broaden the available knowledge about the connections between the tendency to use certain kinds of humor and specific personality traits by coming up with analyses designed to test potential curvilinear relationships,
  3. And to examine the link between the use of humor and anger management, which is significant to applied psychology.

The research carried out at the UGR helped create a more efficient tool that can analyze "predispositions related to the use of humor among the Spanish population." For this study, the "Humor Styles Questionnaire," the international reference scale used to gauge humor styles, was modified to suit the Spanish environment.

You can learn more about the science of humor and how it affects mental health at

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