Why did the chicken cross the road? And why is that joke never funny? Psychological science has the answers. Peter McGraw, who directs the Humor Research Lab at the University of Colorado, Boulder, offers this reading list to those who want a deeper understanding of the psychological science behind humor.
- A joke is just a joke (except when it isn’t): Cavalier humor beliefs facilitate the expression of group dominance motives.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
The anatomy of a racist joke: Motivated by dominance, the racist comedian uses a cavalier approach to disguise biases and dismiss the joke’s harmful effects.
- Personality traits, intelligence, humor styles, and humor production ability of professional stand-up comedians compared to college students.
Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts
What’s the difference between a comedian and a college student? Comedians score higher in verbal intelligence, and — surprise! — they’re funnier, too.
- Who’s funny: Gender stereotypes, humor production, and memory bias.
Psychonomic Bulletin & Review
Men may be a little bit funnier than women, but apparently they’re not as funny as they think they are.
- Benign violations: Making immoral behavior funny
Violation can make you laugh — as long as you aren’t too invested in the principle that’s being violated.
- Humor as emotion regulation: The differential consequences of negative versus positive humor
Cognition & Emotion
It pays to play (and joke) nice: Mean-spirited humor can’t help you regulate your emotions, but positive humor can.
- Divergent effects of different positive emotions on moral judgment
Can humor make us behave morally? It depends on the type of humor.
- Too close for comfort, or too far to care? Finding humor in distant tragedies and close mishaps.
Big tragedies aren’t funny when they hit close to home; little accidents aren’t funny unless they happen close to home.