Laughter and Stress in Daily Life: Relation to Positive and Negative Affect

Abstract

The present study investigated the proposal that increased laughter can serve to moderate the affective impact of negative life events. Community participants kept a record of their actual frequency of laughter for a 3-day period, and completed a measure of stressful life events each evening. Current levels of positive and negative affect were also obtained in the morning and evening of each day. A series of simple correlations, computed on a daily basis, provided little evidence for any direct relationships between amount of daily laughter and either positive or negative affect. Instead, more complex moderator analyses revealed that greater negative affect was clearly associated with a higher number of stressful life events, but only for those individuals with a lower frequency of actual laughter. In contrast, and in support of a stress buffering hypothesis, it was found that individuals with a higher frequency of laughter did not show greater levels of negative affect as stressful life events increased. When considering positive affect, it was found that only males showed a significant moderating effect of laughter. For males who laughed more frequently, a greater number of stressful life events was associated with higher levels of positive affect. These findings are discussed in terms of several possible mechanisms which may account for the moderating effects of laughter on affect, including the use of cognitive appraisals and emotion-focused coping strategies.

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Correspondence to Nicholas A. Kuiper.

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Kuiper, N.A., Martin, R.A. Laughter and Stress in Daily Life: Relation to Positive and Negative Affect. Motivation and Emotion 22, 133–153 (1998). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1021392305352

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Keywords

  • Negative Affect
  • Coping Strategy
  • Positive Affect
  • Direct Relationship
  • Moderator Analysis