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How virtuous is humor? Evidence from everyday behavior


Beermann, Ursula; Ruch, Willibald (2009). How virtuous is humor? Evidence from everyday behavior. Humor, 22(4):395-417.

Abstract

Historical as well as contemporary writers across many disciplines have referred to humor as a virtue. However, in psychological research it is not clear in which ways humor can serve (as) a virtue, and for which virtues this holds. The current study addresses this issue from the perspective of lay people's everyday lives. The aims of the study are to investigate (1) how often people achieved each of six core virtues identified by Dahlsgaard et al. (2005) by means of humor, also in relation to how important the respective virtue was for the participants, (2) to collect reports of situations where participants actually used humor to achieve any of the six virtues, and (3) to study the use of eight comic styles (Schmidt-Hidding 1963) within in the reported situations. Whereas justice and humanity were the virtues considered most important, the virtues most compatible with humor seemed to be humanity and wisdom. However, it was possible to report situations for each of the virtues. More benevolent comic styles were used more frequently to achieve virtue than more malevolent styles. But whenever malevolent styles, like sarcasm or cynism, were used, this was disproportionally often the case in order to exert justice.

Historical as well as contemporary writers across many disciplines have referred to humor as a virtue. However, in psychological research it is not clear in which ways humor can serve (as) a virtue, and for which virtues this holds. The current study addresses this issue from the perspective of lay people's everyday lives. The aims of the study are to investigate (1) how often people achieved each of six core virtues identified by Dahlsgaard et al. (2005) by means of humor, also in relation to how important the respective virtue was for the participants, (2) to collect reports of situations where participants actually used humor to achieve any of the six virtues, and (3) to study the use of eight comic styles (Schmidt-Hidding 1963) within in the reported situations. Whereas justice and humanity were the virtues considered most important, the virtues most compatible with humor seemed to be humanity and wisdom. However, it was possible to report situations for each of the virtues. More benevolent comic styles were used more frequently to achieve virtue than more malevolent styles. But whenever malevolent styles, like sarcasm or cynism, were used, this was disproportionally often the case in order to exert justice.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Uncontrolled Keywords:virtue, humor, positive psychology, comic styles, situations
Language:English
Date:2009
Deposited On:06 Jan 2010 15:43
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 13:40
Publisher:De Gruyter
ISSN:0933-1719
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1515/HUMR.2009.023
Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-26216

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