Functions of Humor in Intercultural Communication and Educational Environments

  • Kimie OSHIMA
Part of the Multilingual Education book series (MULT, volume 24)


Humor is important in its ability to help people to “think outside the box.” It aids in the conceptualization of ideas that are outside of the framework of accepted norms. In this sense, it is a similar skill to having intercultural understanding and communication. It can also assist in the understanding and deconstructing of social and cultural expectations. It can function as a social lubricant, as well as be an antidote to inter-ethnic tensions, as seen in the successful use of ethnic jokes in a multi-ethnic society like Hawaii. It has also been shown that the type of environment created in the classroom by humor can motivate students, and by doing so contribute to building better teacher-student relationships. Humor promotes mental flexibility, which can help people to first understand, then adopt, new aspects of culture and communication, which can then be further developed through education.


  1. Aiba, A. (2009). Owarai no rekishi (History of Japanese comedy). In The Japan society for laughter and humor studies (Ed.), Warai no seiki (Century of laughter), (pp.168–186). Osaka: Sogen-sha.Google Scholar
  2. Banas, J., Dunbar, N., Rodriguez, D., & Liu, S. (2011). A view of humor in educational settings: Four decades of research. Communication Education, 60, 115–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bell, N. (2014). Second language acquisition. In S. Attardo (Ed.), Encyclopedia of humor studies (Vol. 2, pp. 672–673). Los Angeles: SAGE Publications.Google Scholar
  4. Boring, E. (1930). A new ambiguous figure. American Journal of Psychology, 42, 444–445.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brown, P., & Levinson, S. (1978). Universals in language usage: Politeness phenomena. In E. N. Goody (Ed.), Questions and politeness (pp. 56–289). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Brown, P., & Levinson, S. (1987). Politeness: Some universals in language usage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Chapman, A. (1983). Humor and laughter in social interaction and some implications for humor research. In P. McGhee & J. Goldstein (Eds.), Handbook of humor research (Vol. 1, pp. 135–157). New York: Springer-Verlag.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Davies, C. E. (1990). Ethnic humor around the world: A comparative analysis. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Davies, C. E. (2015). Humor in intercultural interaction as both content and process in the classroom. International Journal of Humor Research, 28(3), 375–395.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Deneire, M. (1995). Humor and foreign language teaching. International Journal of Humor Research, 8(3), 285–298.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. DiCioccio, R., & Miczo, N. (2014). Intercultural humor. In S. Attardo (Ed.), Encyclopedia of humor studies (Vol. 1, pp. 387–388). Los Angeles: SAGE Publications.Google Scholar
  12. Dunbar, N. (2014). Humor in education. In S. Attardo (Ed.), Encyclopedia of humor studies (Vol. 1, pp. 207–210). Los Angeles: SAGE Publications.Google Scholar
  13. Fine, G. (1983). Sociological approaches to the study of humor. In P. McGhee & J. Goldstein (Eds.), Handbook of humor research (Vol. 1, pp. 159–181). New York: Springer-Verlag.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Garner, R. (2006). Humor in pedagogy: How ha-ha can lead to aha. College Teaching, 57(1), 177–180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hall, E. (1976). Beyond culture. Garden City: Anchor.Google Scholar
  16. Hill, D. (1988). Humor in the classroom: A handbook for teachers and other entertainers. Springfield: Charles Thomas.Google Scholar
  17. Hopkins, J. (Ed.). (1991). Frank DeLima’s joke book. Honolulu: Bess Press.Google Scholar
  18. Hormann, B. (1972). Hawaii’s mixing people – The blending of the races, marginality and identity in world perspective. New York: Wiley and Sons, Inc..Google Scholar
  19. Hormann, B. (1982). The mixing process. Social Process in Hawai’i, 29, 117–129.Google Scholar
  20. Keller, M. (1980, Nov. 9). Racial jokes seen easing aggressions. Honolulu Star Bulletin, A3.Google Scholar
  21. Kume, A. (2002). To mawashi ni soretonaku: Enkyoku hyogen (Talk around: Euphemism). In G. Furuta (Ed.), Ibunka komyunikeshon ki-wado (Keywords in intercultural communication) (pp. 106–107). Tokyo: Yuhikaku.Google Scholar
  22. LeMasters, E. (1975). Blue collar aristocrats: Life-styles at a working-class tavern. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.Google Scholar
  23. Lind, A. (1967). Hawaii’s people. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.Google Scholar
  24. Martin, R. (2009). What’s so funny? The scientific study of humor. In Report on international symposium towards a general science of laughter and humor (Vol. II, pp. 19–43). Suita: Kansai University.Google Scholar
  25. McGhee, P. (1979). Humor, its origin and development. San Francisco: Freeman.Google Scholar
  26. Morreall, J. (1997). Humor works. Amherst: HRD Press.Google Scholar
  27. Morreall, J. (2008). Applications of humor: Health, the workplace, and education. In V. Raskin (Ed.), The primer of humor research (pp. 449–478). New York: Mouton de Gruyter.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Murray, H. (1983). Low-inference classroom teaching behaviors and student ratings of college teaching effectiveness. Journal of Educational Psychology, 75(1), 138–149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Nilsen, D. (1989). Better than original: Humorous translations that succeed. Meta, 34(1), 112–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Okabe, R. (2002). Komyunikeshon to wa (What is communication). In G. Furuta (Ed.), Ibunka komyunikeshon ki-wado (Keywords in intercultural communication) (pp. 51–80). Tokyo: Yuhikaku.Google Scholar
  31. Okamura, J. (1995). Why there are no Asian Americans in Hawai’i: The continuing significance of local identity. Social Process in Hawai’i, 2, 243–256.Google Scholar
  32. Oshima, K. (2000). Ethnic jokes and social function in Hawai’i. International Journal of Humor Research, 13(1), 41–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Oshima, K. (2006a). Rakugo and humor in Japanese interpersonal communication. In J. M. Davis (Ed.), Understanding humor in Japan (pp. 99–109). Detroit: Wayne State University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Oshima, K. (2006b). Nihon no warai to sekai no humor (Laughter of Japan and humor of the world). Tokyo: Sekai Shiso Sha.Google Scholar
  35. Oshima, K. (2011). Japanese cultural expressions seen in English Rakugo scripts. Asian Englishes, 14(1), 46–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Oshima, K. (2013). An examination for styles of Japanese humor: Japan’s funniest story project 2010 to 2011. Intercultural Communication Studies, 22(2), 91–109.Google Scholar
  37. Schultz, T. (1976). A cognitive-developmental analysis of humour. In J. Chapman & C. Foot (Eds.), Humor and laughter: Theory, research, and applications (pp. 11–36). London: John Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar
  38. Spiegel, P. (1972). Early conceptions of humor: Varieties and issues. In J. Goldstein & P. McGhee (Eds.), The psychology of humor: Theoretical perspectives and empirical issues (pp. 4–39). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  39. Takekuro, M. (2005). Conversational jokes in Japanese and English. In J. M. Davis (Ed.), Understanding humor in Japan (pp. 85–98). Detroit: Wayne State University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Van Giffen, K. (1990). Influence of professor gender and perceived use of humor on course evaluations. International Journal of Humor Research, 3, 65–73.Google Scholar
  41. Vega, G. (1989). Humor competence: The fifth component. Purdue University, Unpublished M.A. thesis.Google Scholar
  42. Wanzer, M. B., Frymier, A. B., & Irwin, J. (2010). An explanation of the relationship between humor and student learning: Instructional humor processing theory. Communication Education, 59, 1–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Weaver, S. (2014). Ethnic jokes. In S. Attardo (Ed.), Encyclopedia of humor studies (Vol. 1, pp. 214–215). Los Angeles: SAGE Publications.Google Scholar
  44. Wu, E. (2015, Jan. 15). Hawaii as racial paradise? Bid for Obama Library invokes a complex past. Code switch: Frontiers of race, culture, and ethnicity. (Accessed on 27 July 2017)
  45. Yamanaka, H. (1993). Hawai (Hawaii). Tokyo: Chikuma Shobo.Google Scholar
  46. Ziv, A. (1984). Personality and sense of humor. New York: Springer.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Foreign Language DepartmentKanagawa UniversityYokohamaJapan

Personalised recommendations