The ridiculed Impostor: Testing the associations between dispositions toward ridicule and being laughed at and the Impostor Phenomenon

  • Kay BrauerEmail author
  • René T. Proyer


Individual differences in how people experience and engage in laughter and ridicule can be described by three personality dispositions: gelotophobia (fear of being laughed at), gelotophilia (joy in being laughed at), and katagelasticism (joy in laughing at others). We study the correlates of how people deal with ridicule and being laughed at with the Impostor Phenomenon (IP; individual differences in the failure to internalize success and feelings of intellectual fraud). We tested our hypotheses in two independently collected samples of students and working professionals (N = 315/229; M = 22.7/37.1 years; 54.9/59.4% females). In line with previous studies, the IP was more pronounced in the students (g = 0.45). As expected, the fear of being laughed at best predicted the IP robustly positively (26–31% explained variance), and only numerically small effects (≤ 3% explained variance) existed for joy in being laughed at and laughing at others. Associations between the laughter-related dispositions and the IP did not differ between students and professionals. We discuss the findings with respect to expectations derived from theory, potential mediators, and future research directions.


Gelotophobia Gelotophilia Impostor phenomenon Katagelasticism Laughter Ridicule 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human Studies

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee 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.

Supplementary material

12144_2019_262_MOESM1_ESM.docx (16 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 15 kb)


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyMartin Luther University Halle-WittenbergHalle (Saale)Germany

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