Humor, Laughter, and Cheerfulness

This project is about exploring individual differences of humor, laughter and cheerfulness as well as about measuring them by means of questionnaires, behavioral tests, and observation methods. In addition, the relationship between humor and well-being is examined as well as the possibility to increase well-being through humor trainings. In addition, attitudes to laughter and being laughed at as well as humor in children are examined.

Temperamental basis of the sense of humor

This subproject addresses the question of what the temperamental basis of humor is. For this purpose, concepts and methods from personality psychology and emotion psychology are employed to model and capture individual differences and to consider the affective component (incl. nonverbal expressions such as smile and laughter). The three dimensions relevant to humor-related temperament are cheerfulness, seriousness, and bad mood, which adversely affect the threshold of the person's exhilaration and the experience of amusement as an emotion. In addition, this subproject deals with creating and validating self- and other-reports, which are available in different versions (e.g., short and long versions, state and trait versions) for different groups of people (e.g., children, adolescents, adults).

Contact: Dr. Jenny Hofmann

Measurement and models of individual differences in humor

In this subproject, we examine how many types of sense of humor can be distinguished and how they can be measured. Based on earlier literary works, eight different comic styles (fun, benevolent humor, nonsense, wit, irony, satire, sarcasm and cynicism) have been identified and validated in the Comic Styles Markers questionnaire. The current research deals with the identification of other comic styles, the further validation of these styles as well as a comprehensive humor model, which can represent the sense of humor on different levels (from specific to abstract).

Contact: Dr. Sonja Heintz

Humor production, humor preferences, and understanding of humor

Important measurement methods in humor research are behavioral tests, which directly assess individual differences in humor production, preferences, and understanding through humorous stimuli (such as jokes, cartoons, or videos). The purpose of this subproject is to examine how different types of humorous materials are perceived and evaluated, and which other characteristics (e.g., personality, intelligence, creativity, sense of humor) relate to them. It also examines the relationship between these three areas, i.e., whether people who produce more humor can also better understand it or appreciate it more.

Contact: Dr. Sonja Heintz

Humor and well-being

The idea that humor can positively affect well-being or that it can even be a central component of happiness, in the sense of "cheerful serenity" that makes it easier for us to overcome life's problems, was raised a hundred years ago. However, the empirical investigation of these assumptions has only intensified in recent years, leaving many open questions on this topic. While some of the approaches reduce humor to "positive" vs. "negative", others have increasingly shown that further differentiation is needed to adequately demonstrate the relationships between humor and well-being. In addition, it was also shown that humor can be virtuous, and thus already in 2004 it was included in the VIA classification of character strengths. Our current research is focused on the fine-grained assessment of humor and well-being as well as humor as a strength and virtue and thus providing the basis for effective humor interventions.

Contact: Dr. Sonja Heintz

Humor interventions

This subproject deals with the research and application of humor interventions in different fields. This includes, among others, hospital clowns in hospitals, nursing homes and other care facilities, implementing humor-based positive psychological interventions as well as comprehensive humor programs aimed at training various humorous abilities. Humor interventions range from short online exercises, which take a few minutes a day, to group-based programs lasting several weeks. In addition to clinical applications, the transfer to teams and working contexts is also examined.

Contact: Dr. Jenny Hofmann

Attitude to laughter and being laughed at

While humor and laughter are usually perceived as positive, there are also certain individuals who always suspect a bad intent behind smiles and laughter and who interpret other people’s laughter negatively and as targeted at them. People with high levels of gelotophobia are afraid of being laughed at, which may be accompanied by (social) withdrawal in addition to being sensitive to the laughter of others and to overreact to other people’s humor. In contrast, there are people who like to be laughed at (the so-called gelotophiles) as well as people who like to laugh at others (so-called katagelasticists). This subproject investigates how these three attitudes to laughter and being laughed at are expressed, what causes and consequences these three attitudes have and how, if necessary, interventions of gelotophobia can be counteracted.

Contact: Dr. Jenny Hofmann

Humor in children

There are few empirical studies that have examined humor understanding / appreciation and humor production (active) in young children. In this project, existing findings are extended (complemented by more sophisticated methods, such as capturing nonverbal expressive behavior through the Facial Action Coding System) and new issues included (humor production: active initiation of playful actions and influence of context and personality). Two main questions focus on: How to measure understanding humor and the sense of humor in young children? In which context do children themselves initiate playful / humorous actions and is there an interaction with the humor-related personality?

Contact: Dr. Jenny Hofmann