Making sense and making fun: Humor in the context of situational meaning making and global meaning


Humor is a multifaceted construct that is generally regarded as a positive emotional experience positively associated with well-being. Despite this generally accepted relationship, empirical research on humor and meaning (both situational meaning and global evaluations of meaning in life) is surprisingly limited. The current research examined the relationship between humor and situational meaning making in the context of stressful events, as well as general evaluations of meaning in life. Study 1 replicated and extended research on the association between humor and well-being by assessing the relationship between several aspects of humor and ratings of meaning in life. Studies 2 and 3 explored the role of humor in making sense of stressful experiences using retrospective and prospective designs. Study 2 took a retrospective approach to examining the role of humor in coping with stressful experiences by having participants reflect on a stressful experience from the previous two years. Study 3 prospectively examined the role of humor in meaning making and coping with a stressful experience using an expressive writing paradigm. Participants in the humor condition were asked to write about a stressful experience they were currently dealing with and to specifically make an effort to find humor in the experience. Well-being, discrepancy, and meaning making outcomes were assessed 4 weeks later to evaluate the effectiveness of effortful attempts to use humor in coping with stressful experiences. The results replicated previous research on humor and well-being, and supported the hypothesized relationship between healthy/unhealthy humor and meaning in life. Humor was also associated with meaning making, however, the role of humor in making initial attributions for a potentially stressful experience and discrepancies was not clearly supported. Implications, limitations, and future directions are discussed.

Texas A&M University