Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 48, Issue 12, pp 4155–4166 | Cite as

An Investigation of Gelotophobia in Individuals with a Diagnosis of High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Geraldine Leader
  • Susan Grennan
  • June L. Chen
  • Arlene Mannion
Original Paper


Samson et al. (Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 41:475–483, 2011) conducted the first empirical investigation examining the fear of being laughed at (gelotophobia) and its prevalence in individuals with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder (hfASD). The present research examined gelotophobia in relation to social functioning, perceived social support, life satisfaction and quality of life (QoL) in individuals with hfASD, including past experiences of bullying and the presence of comorbid psychopathology. Participants were 103 adults with a clinical diagnosis of hfASD and 137 typically developing controls. Individuals with hfASD presented with higher rates of gelotophobia symptomatology in comparison to controls (87.4 vs. 22.6% respectively). It was also found that social functioning, past experiences of bullying, anxiety and life satisfaction were predictors of gelotophobia amongst individuals with hfASD.


Gelotophobia High-functioning autism spectrum disorder Fear of being laughed at Teasing Laughter 


Author Contributions

GL conceived of the study, participated in its design and coordination and drafted the manuscript. SG participated in the design and coordination of the study, performed the measurement and drafted an initial draft of the manuscript. JC participated in the design of the study and assisted with the statistical analysis. AM conceived of the study, participated in its design and coordination and helped to draft the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

All the authors of this article declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of National University of Ireland Galway and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


  1. American Psychiatric Association. (2000). DSM-IV-TR: Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, text revision. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.Google Scholar
  2. Asperger, H. (1944). Die ‘Autistischen Psychopathen’ im Kindesalter (translatedas ‘Autistic psychopathy’ in childhood). Archiv für Psychiatrie und Nervenkrankheiten, 117, 76–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Asperger, H. (1991). ‘Autistic psychopathology’ in childhood. In U. Frith (Ed.), Autism and Asperger syndrome (pp. 37–92). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Attwood, T. (2000). Strategies for improving the social integration of children with Asperger Syndrome. Autism, 4, 85–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Attwood, T. (2004). Strategies to reduce the bullying of young children with Asperger syndrome. Australian Journal of Early Childhood, 29(3), 15.Google Scholar
  6. Baron-Cohen, S. (1989). The autistic child’s theory of mind: A case of specific developmental delay. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 30, 285–297.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Baron-Cohen, S. (2001). Theory of mind and autism: A review. In L. M. Glidden (Ed.), Special issue of the international review of mental retardation. San Diego: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  8. Baron-Cohen, S., Leslie, A., & Frith, U. (1985). Does the autistic child have a “theory of mind”? Cognition, 21, 37–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Baron-Cohen, S., Wheelwright, S., Skinner, R., Martin, J., & Clubley, E. (2001). The Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ): Evidence from Asperger syndrome/high-functioning autism, males and females, scientists and mathematicians. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 31, 5–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cappadocia, M. C., Weiss, J. A., & Pepler, D. (2012). Bullying experiences among and youth with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 42, 266–277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Carretero-Dios, H., Ruch, W., Agudelo, D., Platt, T., & Proyer, R. T. (2010). Fear of being laughed at and social anxiety: A preliminary psychometric study. Psychology Science Quarterly, 52, 108–124.Google Scholar
  12. Carrington, S., & Graham, L. (2001). Perceptions of school by two teenage boys with Asperger syndrome and their mothers: A qualitative study. Autism, 5, 37–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Carter, S. (2009). Bullying of students with Asperger syndrome. Issues in Comprehensive Pediatric Nursing, 32, 145–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Cohen, J. (1992). A Power Primer. Psychological Bulletin, 112, 155–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cohen, S., & Hoberman, H. M. (1983). Positive events and social support as buffers of life change stress. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 13, 99–125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Cohen, S., Mermelstein, R., Kamarck, T., & Hoberman, H. M. (1985). Measuring the functional components of social support. In I. G. Sarason & B. R. Sarason (Eds.), Social support: Theory, research and applications. Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers.Google Scholar
  17. Cohen, S., & Wills, T. A. (1985). Stress, social support and the buffering hypothesis. Psychological Bulletin, 98, 310–357.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Diener, E., Emmons, R. A., Larsen, R. J., & Griffin, S. (1985). The satisfaction with life scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49, 71–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Dubin, N. (2007). Asperger syndrome and bullying: Strategies and solutions. London: Jessica Kingsley.Google Scholar
  20. Engström, I., Ekström, L., & Emilsson, B. (2003). Psychosocial functioning in a group of Swedish adults with Asperger syndrome or high-functioning autism. Autism, 7, 99–110.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Ferguson, M. A., & Ford, T. E. (2008). Disparagement humor: Atheoretical and empirical review of psychoanalytic, superiority, and social identity theories. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research, 21, 283–313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Forabosco, G., Ruch, W., & Nucera, P. (2009). The fear of being laughed at among psychiatric patients. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research, 22, 233–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Frith, U. (2004). Emanuel Miller lecture: Confusions and controversies about Asperger syndrome. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 45, 672–686.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gilchrist, A., Green, J., Cox, A., Burton, D., Rutter, M., & Le Couteur, A. (2001). Development and current functioning in adolescents with Asperger syndrome: A comparative study. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 42, 227–240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Green, J., Gilchrist, A., Burton, D., & Cox, A. (2000). Social and psychiatric functioning in adolescents with Asperger syndrome compared with conduct disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 30, 279–293.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Jennes-Coussens, M., Magill-Evans, J., & Koning, C. (2006). The quality of life of young men with Asperger syndrome: A brief report. Autism, 10, 403–414.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Little, L. (2002). Middle-class mothers’ perceptions of peer and sibling victimization among children with Asperger syndrome and non-verbal learning disorders. Issues in Comprehensive Pediatric Nursing, 25, 43–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lugnegard, T., Hallerback, M. U., & Gillberg, C. (2011). Psychiatric comorbidity in young adults with a clinical diagnosis of Asperger syndrome. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 32, 1910–1917.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Martin, R. A. (2007). The psychology of humor: An integrative approach. London: Academic Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Matson, J. L., & Nebel-Schwalm, M. S. (2007). Comorbid psychopathology with autism spectrum disorder in children: An overview. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 28, 341–352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Muris, P., Steerneman, P., Meesters, C., Merckelbach, H., Horselenberg, R., van den Hogen, T., & van Dongen, L. (1999). The TOM test: A new instrument for assessing theory of mind in normal children and children with pervasive developmental disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 29(1), 67–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Olweus, D. (1993). Bullying at school: What we know and what we can do. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  33. Papousek, I., Aydin, N., Lackner, H. K., Weiss, E. M., Buehner, M., Schulter, G., et al. (2014). Laughter as a social rejection cue: Gelotophobia and transient cardiac responses to other persons’ laughter and insult. Psychophysiology, 51(11), 1112–1121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Pavot, W. G., Diener, E., Colvin, C. R., & Sandvik, E. (1991). Further validation of the satisfaction with life scale: Evidence for the cross-method convergence of well-being measures. Journal of Personality Assessment, 57, 149–161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Platt, T. (2008). Emotional responses to ridicule and teasing: Should gelotophobes react differently? Humor: International Journal of Humor Research, 21, 105–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Platt, T., Proyer, R. T., & Ruch, W. (2009). Gelotophobia and bullying: The assessment of the fear of being laughed at and its application among bullying victims. Psychology Science Quarterly, 51, 135–147.Google Scholar
  37. Proyer, R. T., Hempelmann, C. F., & Ruch, W. (2009). Were they really laughed at? That much? Gelotophobes and their history of perceived derisibility. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research, 22, 213–231.Google Scholar
  38. Proyer, R. T., Platt, T., & Ruch, W. (2010). Self-conscious emotions and ridicule: Shameful gelotophobes and guilt free katagelasticists. Personality and Individual Differences, 49, 54–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Proyer, R. T., Ruch, W., Ali, N. S., Al-Olimat, H. S., Amemiya, T., Adal, T. A., et al. (2009). Breaking ground in cross-cultural research on the fear of being laughed at (gelotophobia): A multi-national study involving 73 countries. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research, 22, 253–279.Google Scholar
  40. Remington, M., & Tyrer, P. (1979). The social functioning schedule: A brief semi-structured interview. Social Psychiatry, 14, 151–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Renty, J. O., & Roeyers, H. (2006). Quality of life in high-functioning adults with autism spectrum disorder: The predictive value of disability and support characteristics. Autism, 10, 511–524.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Rowley, E., Chandler, S., Baird, G., Simonoff, E., Pickles, A., Loucas, T., et al. (2012). The experience of friendship, victimisation and bullying in children with an autism spectrum disorder: Associations with child characteristics and school placement. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 6, 1126–1134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Ruch, W. (2009). Fearing humor? Gelotophobia: The fear of being laughed at introduction and overview. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research, 22, 1–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Ruch, W., Altfreder, O., & Proyer, R. T. (2009). How do gelotophobes interpret laughter in ambiguous situations? An experimental validation of the concept. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research, 22, 63–89.Google Scholar
  45. Ruch, W., Hofmann, J., Platt, T., & Proyer, R. T. (2014). The state-of-the art in gelotophobia research: A review and some theoretical extensions. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research, 27, 23–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Ruch, W., & Proyer, R. T. (2008a). The fear of being laughed at: Individual and group differences in gelotophobia. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research, 21, 47–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Ruch, W., & Proyer, R. T. (2008b). Who is gelotophobic? Assessment criteria for the fear of being laughed at. Swiss Journal of Psychology, 67, 19–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Samson, A. C., Huber, O., & Ruch, W. (2011). Teasing, ridiculing and the relation to the fear of being laughed at in individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 41, 475–483.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Schäfer, M., Korn, S., Smith, P. K., Hunter, S. C., Mora-Merchán, J. A., Singer, M. M., et al. (2004). Lonely in the crowd: Recollections of bullying. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 22(3), 379–394.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Tanguay, P. E. (2011). Autism in DSM-5. American Journal of Psychiatry, 168, 1142–1144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. The WHOQOL Group. (1998). Development of the World Health Organization WHOQOL-BREF quality of life assessment. Psychological Medicine, 28, 551–558.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Titze, M. (1996). The Pinocchio Complex: Overcoming the fear of laughter. Humor & Health Journal, 5, 1–11.Google Scholar
  53. Titze, M. (2009). Gelotophobia: The fear of being laughed at. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research, 22(1), 27–48.Google Scholar
  54. Tyrer, P., Nur, U., Crawford, M., Karlsen, S., MacLean, C., Rao, B., et al. (2005). The Social functioning questionnaire: A rapid and robust measure of perceived functioning. International Journal of Social Psychiatry, 51, 265–275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Volkmar, F. R., & Klin, A. (2000). Diagnostic issues in Asperger syndrome. Asperger Syndrome, 27, 25–71.Google Scholar
  56. Weiss, E. M., Schulter, G., Freudenthaler, H. H., Hofer, E., Pichler, N., & Papousek, I. (2012). Potential markers of aggressive behavior: The fear of other persons’ laughter and its overlaps with mental disorders. PLoS ONE, 7, e38088.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Wing, L. (1981). Asperger syndrome: A clinical account. Psychological Medicine, 11, 115–129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Woods, A. G., Mahdavi, E., & Ryan, J. P. (2013). Treating clients with Asperger’s Syndrome and autism. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health, 7, 32–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Yang, S. C., Kuo, P. W., Su, S., Wang, J. D., & Lin, M. L. (2006). Development and psychometric properties of the dialysis module of the WHOQOL-BREF Taiwan version. Journal of the Formosan Medical Association, 105, 299–309.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Geraldine Leader
    • 1
  • Susan Grennan
    • 1
  • June L. Chen
    • 2
  • Arlene Mannion
    • 1
  1. 1.Irish Centre for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Research (ICAN), School of PsychologyNational University of IrelandGalwayIreland
  2. 2.Department of Special Education, Faculty of EducationEast China Normal UniversityShanghaiChina

Personalised recommendations