Journal of Business and Psychology

, Volume 34, Issue 3, pp 389–402 | Cite as

Laughter Is (Powerful) Medicine: the Effects of Humor Exposure on the Well-being of Victims of Aggression

  • David ChengEmail author
  • Rajiv Amarnani
  • Tiffany Le
  • Simon Restubog
Original Paper


Aggression at work is an expensive and widespread problem. While a large body of research has studied its antecedents and consequences, few studies have examined what victims can do to help mitigate the damage once it has occurred. Many practitioners and scholars have suggested that workers seek out humor to help them deal with the impact of stressors such as aggression, but little is known about whether humor can actually help victims deal with the psychological damage caused by aggression in the workplace. This paper presents a programmatic series of four experimental studies that examine whether and how exposure to humorous stimuli improves well-being among victims of interpersonal aggression by integrating the superiority theory of humor with Lazarus and Folkman’s transactional model of stress and coping. Study 1 (N = 84 students) showed that exposure to humor had a positive effect on well-being in a sample based in the Philippines. Consistent with theoretical prescriptions from the superiority theory of humor, this effect was mediated by increased momentary sense of power. Study 2 (N = 205 students) found the same positive effects of humor exposure on well-being in a sample based in Australia even when manipulating perpetrator power. These findings were replicated in studies 3 (N = 175 MTurk workers) and 4 (N = 235 MTurk workers) among a diverse sample of workers based in the USA.


Workplace aggression Humor Sense of power Well-being 


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Copyright information

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

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research School of ManagementThe Australian National UniversityCanberraAustralia
  2. 2.Centre for Sustainable HRM and WellbeingAustralian Catholic UniversityCanberraAustralia
  3. 3.University of Illinois-UrbanaChampaignUSA

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