Monday, 9 March 2015

Research Bulletin: Humor Styles and Relationship Satisfaction

Very few of us are published fiction authors, or even write fiction as a hobby. But most of us generate creative fiction on a daily basis in the form of making jokes with our friends and colleagues. A study by Cann, Zapata and Davis (2011) investigated the role that humor plays in romantic relationships. Specifically, this study explored three question. The first was explored hether individuals in serious dating relationships possess similar styles of humor. The second question examined whether one person’s humor style was seen in the same way by the relationship partner. The final question was which of the following would be the best predictor of relationship satisfaction: one’s own humor use, your partner’s humor use, or one’s perception of the partner’s humor use? 
Participants were on average about 20 years old and consisted of 82 unmarried but romantically committed heterosexual couples attending a southeastern United States university. Each couple had been together for a minimum of two months. 
The couples filled out demographic questions along with questionnaires regarding their humor style, their partner’s humor style, and relationship satisfaction. The four humor styles discussed were, (1) affiliative (other-focused, benevolent), (2) aggressive (other-focused, demeaning), (3) self-enhancing (self-focused, benevolent) and (4) self-defeating (self-focused, demeaning).   Couples were found to be generally happy in their relationships and the length of the relationship did not affect levels of relationship satisfaction. There was no support for the idea that couples are drawn to each other based on similarity of their humor styles, which was a particularly surprising finding. However, a person’s perception of their partner’s humor style did affect relationship satisfaction. If a person rated their relationship high on support and depth, they were more likely to believe their partner possessed an affiliative humor style. If a person rated their relationship high on conflict, they believed their partner rarely exhibited a self-enhancing humor style.
This research provided an interesting examination of how everyday creative language production can influence our social relationships. More specifically, it highlights how humor may play an important role in how others perceive us.

Cann, A., Zapata, C. L., & Davis, H., (2011).  Humor style and relationship satisfaction in dating couples: perceived versus self-reported humor styles as predictors in satisfaction. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research, 24, 1-20.

Posted by Marlee Eden.

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