Can Laughter Make Our Lives Better?

Summary: Researchers report humor can be good in certain situation, but its effectiveness depends on your end goals.

Source: University of Arizona.

Why do humorous dating profiles get more right swipes? Can being funny help solve problems? Is laughter really the best medicine?

Humor and the “good life” seem to go hand-in-hand. Funny people seem to move effortlessly through the world. Business articles and gurus prescribe humor as a key to effective workplace performance. The website for the African country of Eritrea even describes humor as “a tremendous resource for surmounting problems, enhancing your relationships, and supporting both physical and emotional health.”

“Humor, Comedy and Consumer Behavior,” a paper by Caleb Warren, assistant professor of marketing in the UA Eller College of Management; Adam Barsky of the University of Melbourne; and A. Peter McGraw of the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business, looks beyond advertising to highlight how and when humor helps people reach their goals.

The paper, forthcoming in the Journal of Consumer Research, breaks people’s goals into three broad categories: hedonic goals (maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain), utilitarian goals (optimizing long-term well-being) and social goals (getting along with others). The researchers integrate insights from psychology, management, linguistics, anthropology, medicine and neuroscience to propose a framework that summarizes the current scientific knowledge about humor.

The authors argue that humor appreciation (laughter and amusement) helps people feel better by making positive experiences, such as watching a movie or dining at a restaurant, more pleasant — and negative experiences, such as going for dental work or waiting in line, less unpleasant. Sharing a laugh also can help people bond and get along better.

But humor appreciation does not always improve utilitarian outcomes, such as decision-making or health. For example, laughing tends to make people more creative — but also more careless. Similarly, watching a funny movie may help someone recover from emotional ailments, such as depression or an anxiety disorder, but there is little evidence that humor will help with cancer or even a common cold.

woman and child laughing
But humor appreciation does not always improve utilitarian outcomes, such as decision-making or health. image is in the public domain.

Similarly, comedy production (trying to make others laugh) sometimes helps people reach their goals but other times gets in the way. For example, cracking a joke can help people capture attention, but it also can make a message seem less important.

One notable conclusion from the paper is that the effects of comedy production depend on the type of joke people tell, as well as whether the joke actually makes an audience laugh. Teasing and telling insulting jokes are less likely to help people cope with loss or navigate an awkward social interaction than joking about the weather or creating an amusing pun. But even jokes about the weather and puns won’t help if no one laughs.

About this neuroscience research article

Source: University of Arizona
Publisher: Organized by
Image Source: image is in the public domain.
Original Research: Abstract for “Humor, Comedy, and Consumer Behavior ” by Caleb Warren, Adam Barsky, and A Peter Mcgraw in Journal of Consumer Research. Published March 6 2018.

Cite This Article

[cbtabs][cbtab title=”MLA”]University of Arizona “Can Laughter Make Our Lives Better?.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 15 April 2018.
<>.[/cbtab][cbtab title=”APA”]University of Arizona (2018, April 15). Can Laughter Make Our Lives Better?. NeuroscienceNews. Retrieved April 15, 2018 from[/cbtab][cbtab title=”Chicago”]University of Arizona “Can Laughter Make Our Lives Better?.” (accessed April 15, 2018).[/cbtab][/cbtabs]


Humor, Comedy, and Consumer Behavior

Consumers regularly experience humor while buying and using products, procuring services, and engaging in various consumption experiences, whether watching a movie or dining with colleagues. Despite an expansive literature on how humor influences advertisers’ communication goals, far less is known about how humor appreciation and comedy production influence the likelihood of attaining various consumption goals, from experiencing pleasure and making better decisions to staying healthy and building relationships. Drawing on a wide range of findings from multiple disciplines, we develop a framework for understanding and investigating the different ways in which experiencing and creating laughter and amusement help—and sometimes hurt—consumers reach their goals. The framework provides key insights into the nuanced role of humor and comedy in consumer welfare.

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