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

Abstract

Purpose

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

Design/Methodology/Approach

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

Findings

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).

Implications

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.

Originality/Value

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.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Notes

  1. 1.

    The two participants completed the persistence task before the depletion task. One participant was from the neutral condition and another from the contentment condition.

  2. 2.

    Participants crossed out the letter e in any word that contained the letter on the first page of writing. On the second page, they only crossed out the letter e in words that did not follow vowels.

References

  1. Abel, M. (2002). Humor, stress and coping strategies. Humor, 15, 365–381. doi:10.1515/humr.15.4.365.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Adams, P., & Van Amerongen, J. (1998). House calls: How we can all heal the world one visit at a time. San Francisco: Robert D. Reed Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Baumeister, R., Bratslavsky, E., Muraven, M., & Tice, D. M. (1998). Ego-depletion: Is the active self a limited resource? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 1252–1265. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.74.5.1252.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  4. Bednarski, J. (2012). Eliciting seven discreet positive emotions using film stimuli. (Honors Thesis in Psychology), Vanderbilt University.

  5. Bergkvist, L., & Rossiter, J. (2007). The predictive validity of multiple-item versus single-item measures of the same constructs. Journal of Marketing Research, 44, 175–184. doi:10.1509/jmkr.44.2.175.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Bergkvist, L., & Rossiter, J. (2009). The importance of choosing one good item for single-item measures and its generalization to all measures. Transfer - Werbeforschung & Praxis, 55(2), 8–18.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Bizi, S., Keinan, G., & Beit-Hallahmi, B. (1988). Humor and coping with stress: A test under real-life conditions. Personality and Individual Differences, 9, 951–956. doi:10.1016/0191-8869(88)90128-6.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Blau, G. (1993). Operationalizing direction and level of effort and testing the relationships to individual job performance. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 55, 152–170. doi:10.1006/obhd.1993.1028.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Boyle, G., & Joss-Reid, J. (2004). Relationship of humor to health: A psychometric investigation. British Journal of Health Psychology, 9(1), 55–66. doi:10.1348/135910704322778722.

  10. Branson, R. (2007). Losing my virginity: Richard Branson the autobiography. London: Virgin Books.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Ciarocco, N. J., Sommer, K. L., & Baumeister, R. (2001). Ostracism and ego-depletion: The strains of silence. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 27(9), 1156–1163. doi:10.1177/0146167201279008.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Cogan, R., Cogan, D., Waltz, W., & McCue, M. (1987). Effects of laughter and relaxation on discomfort thresholds. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 10, 139–144. doi:10.1007/BF00846422.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  13. Cooper, C. (2005). Just joking around? Employee humor expression as an ingratiatory behavior. Academy of Management Review, 30(4), 765–775. doi:10.5465/AMR.2005.18378877.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Cooper, C. (2008). Elucidating the bonds of workplace humor: A relational process model. Human Relations, 61(8), 1087–1115. doi:10.1177/0018726708094861.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Crawford, C. (1994). Theory and implications regarding the utilization of strategic humor by leaders. The Journal of Leadership Studies, 1, 53–68.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Darwin, C. (1965). The expression of the emotions in man and animals. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  17. DeWall, C. N., Baumeister, R., Gailliot, M. T., & Maner, J. K. (2008). Depletion makes the heart grow less helpful: Helping as a function of self-regulatory energy and genetic relatedness. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34(12), 1653–1662. doi:10.1177/0146167208323981.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  18. Diamantopoulos, A. S., Sarstedt, M., Fuchs, C., Wilczynski, P., & Kaiser, S. (2012). Guidelines for choosing between multi-item and single-item scales for construct measurement: A predictive validity perspective. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 40(3), 434–449. doi:10.1007/s11747-011-0300-3.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Duncan, J. (1984). Perceived humor and social network patterns in a sample of task-oriented groups: A reexamination of prior research. Human Relations, 37, 895–907.

  20. Ekman, P. (1999). Basic emotions. In T. Dalgleish & M. Power (Eds.), Handbook of cognition and emotion. Sussex: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Fessler, D., Pillsworth, E., & Flamson, T. (2004). Angry men and disgusted women: An evolutionary approach to the influence of emotions on risk taking. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 95, 107–123. doi:10.1016/j.obhdp.2004.06.006.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Fleming, P. (2005). Worker’s playtime? Boundaries and cynicism in a “culture of fun” program. Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 41(3), 285–303. doi:10.1177/0021886305277033.

  23. Fredrickson, B., & Levenson, R. (1998). Positive emotions speed recovery from the cardiovascular sequelae of negative emotions. Cognition and Emotion, 12, 191–220. doi:10.1080/026999398379718.

    PubMed Central  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  24. Fritz, C., & Sonnetag, S. (2006). Recovery, well-being and performance related outcomes: The role of workload and vacation experiences. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91, 936–945. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.91.4.936.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  25. Gailliot, M. T., Baumeister, R., DeWall, C. N., Maner, J., Plant, E., Tice, D., et al. (2007). Self-control relies on glucose as a limited energy source: Willpower is more than a metaphor. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92, 325–336. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.92.2.325.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  26. Gibson, D. (1994). Humor consulting: Laughs for power and profit in organizations. Humor, 7, 403–428. doi:10.1515/humr.1994.7.4.403.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Gostik, A., & Christopher, S. (2008). The levity effect: Why it pays to lighten up. Hoboken: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Grant, A. M. (2007). Relational job design and the motivation to make a prosocial difiference. Academy of Management Review, 32(2), 393–417. doi:10.5465/AMR.2007.24351328.

  29. Greenberg, J. (1987). The college sophomore as guinea pig: Setting the record straight. Academy of Management Review, 17, 157–159. doi:10.2307/258001.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Gross, J., & Levenson, R. (1995). Emotion elicitation using films. Cognition and Emotion, 9(1), 87–108.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Gruner, C. (1997). The game of humor: A comprehensive theory of why we laugh. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Hagger, M., Wood, C., Stiff, C., & Chatzisarantis, N. (2010). Ego-depletion and the strength model of self control: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 136, 496–525. doi:10.1037/a0019486.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Hamilton, R., Vohs, K., Sellier, A., & Meyvis, T. (2011). Being of two minds: Switching mindsets exhausts self-regulatory resources. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 115(1), 13–24. doi:10.1016/j.obhdp.2010.11.005.

  34. Henman, L. (2001). Humor as a coping mechanism: Lessons from POWs. Humor, 14, 83–94. doi:10.1515/humr.14.1.83.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Herring, D., Burleson, M., Roberts, N., & Devine, M. (2011). Coherent with laughter: Subjective experience, behavior, and physiological responses during amusement and joy. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 79, 211–218. doi:10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2010.10.007.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  36. Highhouse, Scott. (2009). Designing experiments that generalize. Organizational Research Methods, 12(3), 554–566. doi:10.1177/1094428107300396.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Hobbes, T. (1651). Leviathan. Middlesex: Penguin Books.

  38. Holmes, J., & Marra, M. (2002). Having a laugh at work: How humour contributes to workplace culture. Journal of Pragmatics, 34, 1683–1709. doi:10.1016/S0378-2166(02)00032-2.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Izard, C. (1993). Organizational and motivational functions of discrete emotions. In M. Lewis & J. Haviland (Eds.), Handbook of Emotions (pp. 631–641). New York: Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  40. Keltner, D. (2008). Born to be good: The science of a meaningful life. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.

    Google Scholar 

  41. Keltner, D., & Bonanno, G. (1997). A study of laughter and dissociation: Distinct correlates of laughter and smiling during bereavement. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73(4), 687–702. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.73.4.687.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  42. Korczynski, M. (2011). The dialectical sense of humor: Routine joking in a taylorized factory. Organization Studies, 32(10), 1421–1439. doi:10.1177/0170840611421256.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Kuiper, N., & Martin, R. (1998). Laughter and stress in daily life: Relation to positive and negative affect. Motivation and Emotion, 22, 1133–1153. doi:10.1023/A:1021392305352.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Kuiper, N., & McHale, N. (2009). Humor styles as mediators between self-evaluative standards and psychological well-being. The Journal of Psychology, 143(4), 359–376. doi:10.3200/JRLP.143.4.359-376.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  45. Lehmann-Willenbrock, N., & Allen, J. A. (2014). How fun are your meetings? Investigating the relationship between humor patterns in team interactions and team performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 99(6), 1278–1287. doi:10.1037/a0038083.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  46. Lindebaum, D., & Jordan, P. (2012). Positive emotions, negative emotions, or utility of discrete emotions. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 33, 1027–1030. doi:10.1002/job.1819.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Lockwood, N., & Yoshimura, S. (2013). The heart of the matter: The effects of humor on well-being during recovery from cardiovascular disease. Health Communication,. doi:10.1080/10410236.2012.762748.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  48. Malone, P. (1980). Humor: A double-edge tool for today’s managers? Academy of Management Review, 5, 4.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Martin, R. (1998). Approaches to sense of humor: A historical review. In W. Ruch (Ed.), The sense of humor: Explorations of a personality characteristic (pp. 15–60). Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.

    Google Scholar 

  50. Martin, R. (2007). The psychology of humor. London: Academic Press.

    Google Scholar 

  51. Martin, R., & Lefcourt, H. (1983). Sense of humor as a moderator of the relationship between stressors and moods. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 45, 1313–1324. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.45.6.1313.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Martin, R., Puhlik-Doris, P., Larsen, G., Gray, J., & Weir, K. (2003). Individual differences in uses of humor and their relation to psychological well-being: Development of the humor styles questionnaire. Journal of Research in Personality, 37, 48–75. doi:10.1016/S0092-6566(02)00534-2.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. Milkman, K. (2012). Unsure what the future will bring? You may overindulge: Uncertainty increases the appeal of wants over shoulds. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 119, 163–176. doi:10.2139/ssrn.1393535.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  54. Mindess, H. (1971). Laughter and liberation. Los Angeles: Nash Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  55. Morreall, J. (1983). Taking laughter seriously. Albany: State University of New York Press.

    Google Scholar 

  56. Muraven, M., & Baumeister, R. (2000). Self regulation and the depletion of limited resources: Does self control resemble a muscle. Psychological Bulletin, 126, 247–259. doi:10.1037//0033-2909.126.2.247.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  57. Muraven, M., Tice, D., & Baumeister, R. (1998). Self-control as limited resource: Regulatory depletion patterns. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 774–789. doi:10.1037//0033-2909.126.2.247.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  58. Nezlek, J., & Derks, P. (2001). Use of humor as a coping mechanism, psychological adjustment and social interaction. Humor, 14, 395–413. doi:10.1515/humr.2001.011.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  59. Oaten, M., & Cheng, K. (2006). Longitudinal gains in self-regulation from regular physical exercise. British Journal of Health Psychology, 11, 717–733. doi:10.1348/135910706X96481.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  60. Plester, B. (2007). “Taking the piss”: Functions of banter in the IT Industry. Humor, 20(2), 152–187. doi:10.1515/HUMOR.2007.008.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  61. Plester, B. (2009). Crossing the line: Boundaries of workplace humour and fun. Employee Relations, 31(6), 584–599. doi:10.1108/01425450910991749.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  62. Quinn, R., Spreitzer, G., & Lam, C. (2012). Building a sustainable model of human energy in organizations: Exploring the critical role of resources. The Academy of Management Annals, 6(1), 337–396. doi:10.1080/19416520.2012.676762.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  63. Robert, C., & Wilbanks, J. E. (2012). The Wheel Model of humor: Humor events and affect in organizations. Human Relations, 65(9), 1071–1099. doi:10.1177/0018726711433133.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  64. Romero, E., & Cruthirds, K. (2006). The use of humor in the workplace. The Academy of Management Perspectives, 20, 58–69. doi:10.5465/AMP.2006.20591005.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  65. Romero, E., & Pescosolido, A. (2008). Humor and group effectiveness. Human Relations, 61, 395–418. doi:10.1177/0018726708088999.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  66. Rossiter, J. (2002). The C-OAR-SE procedure for scale development in marketing. International Journal of Research in Marketing, 19(4), 305–335. doi:10.1016/S0167-8116(02)00097-6.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  67. Rottenberg, J., Kasch, K., Gross, J. J., & Gotlib, I. (2002). Sadness and amusement reactivity differentially predict concurrent and prospective functioning in major depressive disorder. Emotion, 2, 135–146.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  68. Rottenberg, J., Ray, D., & Gross, J. J. (2007). Emotion elicitation using films. In J. Coan & J. Allen (Eds.), The handbook of emotion elicitation and assessment. London: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  69. Sandelands, L., Brockner, J., & Glynn, M. (1988). If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again: Effects of persistence-performance contingencies, ego involvement and self esteem on task persistence. Journal of Applied Psychology, 73, 208–216.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  70. Sauter, D., & Scott, S. (2005). More than one kind of happiness: Can we recognize vocal expressions of different positive states? Motivation and Emotion, 31, 192–199. doi:10.1007/s11031-007-9065-x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  71. Shiota, M., Campos, R., & Keltner, D. (2003). The faces of positive emotion. Annals of the New York Academy of Science, 1000, 296–299. doi:10.1196/annals.1280.029.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  72. Shiota, M., Keltner, D., & John, O. (2006). Positive emotional dispositions differentially associated with big five personality and attachment style. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 1, 61–71. doi:10.1080/17439760500510833.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  73. Strick, M., Holland, R. W., van Baaren, R. B., & van Knippenberg, A. (2009). Finding comfort in a joke: Consolatory effects of humor through cognitive distraction. Emotion, 9(4), 574–578. doi:10.1037/a0015951.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  74. Tangney, June P., Baumeister, Roy F., & Boone, Angie L. (2004). High self control predicts good adjustment, less pathology, better grades and interpersonal success. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72(2), 270–322. doi:10.1111/j.0022-3506.2004.00263.x/.

    Google Scholar 

  75. Tews, M., Michel, J., & Stafford, K. (2013). Does fun pay? The impact of workplace fun on employee turnover and performance. Cornell Hospitality Quarterly, 54(4), 370–382. doi:10.1177/1938965513505355.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  76. Thoman, D., Smith, J., & Silvia, P. (2011). The resource replenishment function of interest. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 2, 592–599. doi:10.1177/1948550611402521.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  77. Tice, D. M., Baumeister, R., Shmueli, D., & Muraven, M. (2007). Restoring the self: Positive affect helps improve self-regulation following ego-depletion. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 43, 379–384. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2006.05.007.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  78. Tiedens, L. (2001). The Effect of Anger on the Hostile Inferences of Aggressive and Nonaggressive People: Specific Emotions, Cognitive Processing, and Chronic Accessibility. Motivation and Emotion, 25(3), 233-251. doi: 10.1023/A:1012224507488.

  79. Vaillant, G. (2000). Adaptive mental mechanisms: Their role in a positive psychology. American Psychologist, 55(1), 89–98. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.55.1.89.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  80. Vohs, K., Baumeister, R., & Ciarocco, N. J. (2005). Self-regulation and self-presentation: regulatory resource depletion impairs impression management and effortful self-presentation depletes regulatory resources. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88(4), 632–657. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.88.4.632.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  81. Vohs, K., Baumeister, R., Schmeichel, B. J., Twenge, J. M., Nelson, N. M., & Tice, D. (2008). Making choices impairs subsequent self-control: A limited-resource account of decision making, self-regulation, and active initiative. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 94, 883–898. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.94.5.883.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  82. Warren, S., & Fineman, S. (2007). Don’t get me wrong it’s fun here but. In R. Westwood, C. Rhodes, et al. (Eds.), Humour, work and organization. New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  83. Wegner, D., Schneider, D., Carter, S., & White, T. (1987). Paradoxical effects of thought suppression. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53, 5–13. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.53.1.5.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  84. Weisenberg, M., Tepper, L., & Schwarzwald, J. (1995). Humor as a coping technique for increasing pain tolerance. Pain, 63, 207–212. doi:10.1016/0304-3959(95)00046-U.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  85. Williams, L., & Destano, D. (2008). Pride and Perserverance: The motivational role of pride. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 94(6), 1007–1017. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.94.6.1007.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  86. Wyer, R., & Collins, J. (1992). A theory of humor elicitation. Psychological Review, 4, 663–688.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  87. Wyland, C., & Forgas, J. (2007). On bad mood and white bears: The effects of mood state on ability to suppress unwanted thoughts. Cognition and Emotion, 21, 1513–1524. doi:10.1080/02699930601063506.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  88. Yovetich, N., Dale, J., & Hudak, M. (1990). Benefits of humor in reduction of threat induced anxiety. Psychological Reports, 66, 51–58. doi:10.2466/pr0.1990.66.1.51.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  89. Zhou, X., Vohs, K. D., & Baumeister, R. (2009). The symbolic power of money: Reminders of money alter social distress and physical pain. Psychological Science, 20(6), 700–706. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02353.x.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  90. Zillman, D., Rockwell, S., Schweitzer, K., & Sundar, S. (1993). Does humor facilitate coping with physical discomfort? Motivation and Emotion, 17, 1–21. doi:10.1007/BF00995204.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  91. Zweyer, K., Velker, B., & Ruch, W. (2004). Do cheerfulness, exhilaration and humor production moderate pain tolerance? A FACS study. Humor, 17(1), 85–119.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgment

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

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to David Cheng.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Cheng, D., Wang, L. Examining the Energizing Effects of Humor: The Influence of Humor on Persistence Behavior. J Bus Psychol 30, 759–772 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10869-014-9396-z

Download citation

Keywords

  • Persistence
  • Self-regulation
  • Humor
  • Amusement