, Volume 18, Issue 2, pp 101-109

Does humor moderate the effects of experimentally-induced stress?

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Abstract

This study attempted to determine whether humor production moderates mood and physiological responses to stress of subjects high and low in trait humor. Forty subjects who were high and 40 subjects who were low in trait humor were selected. Half of each group was randomly assigned to one of two conditions. In one condition they generated a humorous monologue and in the other condition they generated a serious monologue to a silent stressful film. Heart rate, skin conductance level, and skin temperature were taken continuously for the fifteen minutes before, during, and fifteen minutes after the film. Pre- and post-stress mood and tension ratings were also recorded. Analyses of covariance were conducted with baseline mood and tension as covariates. Compared to the production of a serious narrative, humor production led to lower negative affect, lower tension, and reduced psychophysiological reactivity for both high and low trait-humor groups. These results suggest that humor production may be an effective coping strategy, even for individuals who do not typically use humor to cope with stress.

The authors gratefully acknowledge Louis Castonguay, Ph.D. and C. Barr Taylor, M.D. for their editorial assistance.