Journal of Business and Psychology

, Volume 30, Issue 4, pp 759–772 | Cite as

Examining the Energizing Effects of Humor: The Influence of Humor on Persistence Behavior

  • David ChengEmail author
  • Lu Wang
Original Paper



This paper examines whether, when, and how humor can increase individuals’ persistence.


Two laboratory studies were conducted using 124 students from a large Australian university to examine the causal impact of humor exposure on persistence.


The results show that exposure to humor increases individuals’ persistence in two different tasks and that this effect is mediated by the discrete emotion of amusement (Study 1). Moreover, the positive effect of humor on persistence is stronger for individuals with higher levels of self-enhancing humor style (Study 2).


Humor is not only entertaining but also replenishing. Individuals engaging in activities that require persistence may benefit from exposure to humor. Therefore, organizations that require their employees to persist may consider creating a playful culture that encourages the use of humor to increase employees’ persistence.


Our study is the first to systematically examine the influence of humor on persistence. Going beyond anecdotal and correlational evidence, we document the causal impact of humor exposure on persistence using an experimental design. The findings contribute to the psychology of persistence by showing that humor can be used to increase persistence behavior. In addition, ours is the first study to show that the discrete emotion of amusement mediates the relationship between humor and persistence, and that the effect of humor on persistence is greater for individuals who are high in self-enhancing humor style.


Persistence Self-regulation Humor Amusement 



The authors would like to thank the UNSW Business School for the use of their ASBlab research facility.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Management, Australian School of BusinessUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia

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