Research, Technology

What does a sense of humor say about mental health?

The sense of humor is universal.But how exactly it works remains a mystery to most people. Today, we are looking for a reason to laugh in almost all media, from movies and television to memes and tiktok, and popular comedies bring in a lot of money to the creators. But what's especially interesting is that different people find different reasons to laugh, and the desire to have fun affects who we spend time with. Most often, laughter occurs when we are around other people, since humor promotes cooperation and cohesion in groups, and people who are able to make others laugh tend to have higher levels of cognitive and emotional intelligence. In recent decades, researchers have paid a lot of attention to what exactly we find funny and what it says about us and our mental health.

No culture in the world is devoid of humor, but different people find different things funny.

Humor is a ubiquitous chameleon and to understand how it works, you need to measure the temperature of society, culture and psychology.


  • 1 Why do people need humor
  • 2 Three theories of humor
  • 3 Humor and mental health
  • 4 Why are you laughing?
  • 5 Laugh at yourself

Why do people need humor

It's no secret that humor has a powerful effect on our physical and mental health, and the idea that laughter is the best medicine in the worldhas been in existence since biblical times.Some researchers even believe that humor is our innate ability, similar to the understanding of the language. Moreover, a number of scientific studies have shown that laughter improves mood and reduces the negative effects of stress.

Today there is a whole area of ​​researchdesigned to explore humor and how its different styles affect social interactions and mental health. So, in the past, humor testified to safety, and positive emotions cheered up others, helping to conduct controversial and difficult conversations without offending each other.

Shot from the movie “Scary Movie”

Humor and laughter, among other things, act as social instrument - a well-thought-out joke raises the status of herthe author, and those who are able to understand it experience a greater sense of camaraderie. It also means that the sense of humor has played a significant role in the development of human society, despite the fact that people find completely different things funny.

More on the topic: Is it true that the love of black humor is a sign of high intelligence?

Three theories of humor

Philosophers and scientists have tried for centuries to explainthe nature of humor. Plato and Aristotle, for example, believed that a joke becomes funny when we feel superior to other people (or ourselves in the past). So-called superiority theory states that people enjoy mocking or self-deprecating humor. Sigmund Freud, by the way, explained this by saying that laughter at forbidden topics releases nervous tension.

The second and most common theory to explain the sense of humor is mismatch theory, which was followed by the philosophers Immanuel Kant,James Beatty, Arthur Schopenhauer and others. They believed that we find anything funny that is contrary to our own expectations, which many modern comedians successfully use.

Frame from the series "The Big Bang Theory"

The third theory is called consolation theory, according to which satire, laughter, humor and wit- emotions are identical to fear. So, when we are in a safe (or relatively safe) situation, we laugh at danger - in this way, humor protects our psyche and gives us comfort.

This is interesting: Why do people need laughter from a scientific point of view?

Today, many researchers believe that theoriessuperiority, inadequacy, and consolation do a good job of explaining humor. But all of them would have much more meaning if the sense of humor had a single basis. For this reason, the theory proposed by linguist Thomas Veitch brings scientists closer to solving the puzzle.

Humor occurs when a situation disrupts oursubjective moral principles, while at the same time being normal. This situation is perfectly illustrated by the joke about the monkey: “Why did the monkey fall from the tree? Because she died ”(obeying gravity, any dead creature can fall from a tree). But if the violation of moral principles is disgusting, why do we laugh?

One of the best comedy scenes in cinematic history

Researchers note that disgust isuniversal human emotion, which is equally manifested on the faces of representatives of different cultures. Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that humor itself involves the violation of some norm, be it humiliation, taboo or aggression.

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Humor and mental health

Considering the enormous influence of humor on everydaylife and social interaction, scientists have wondered about its impact on mental health. So, over the past few years, researchers have been able to find evidence that humor causes positive short-term emotional changes, weakening negative emotions.

However, cross-sectional studies have not found a single correlation between sense of humor and the ability to cope with negative emotions, experts note.

As shown by the results of previousstudies, humor is a multi-dimensional and complex construct of components that can influence mental health and well-being, both positively and negatively. Therefore, when exploring the potential role of humor in improving mental health processes and psychological well-being, different styles of humor, contexts and circumstances need to be taken into account.

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To understand the influence of different styles of humor onmental health, in 2003 psychologist Rod Martin and his colleagues developed a humor styles questionnaire. The resulting score measures how people use humor in everyday life, breaking it down into four different styles.

You may be wondering: At what age do children begin to understand jokes?

Why are you laughing?

So, associative humor refers to universal jokes and is intendeddefuse the situation by making others laugh. So, when sending a funny meme to a colleague or making fun of friends, we use associative humor. Don't underestimate and self-irony – the ability to laugh at yourself and ridiculous life situations actually increases self-esteem and allows you to cope with stress.

Situations in which we make fun of other peopleoften implies sarcasm, criticism and ridicule, and therefore are considered aggressive humor. This style of humor is often used in cartoons like Rick and Morty and Futurama: remember Mommy slapping her three grown sons while calling them idiots?

Frame from the animated series "Futurama"

But what, in this case, isunique and subjective sense of humor? Researchers suggest that it is formed by all available styles, and people are more inclined to one of them. And when it comes to mental health, each style has both advantages and disadvantages.

See also: How bad jokes affect the reputation of men and women?

So, self-oriented humor,is considered by psychologists as an adaptive and positive tool for self-improvement. This means that lovers of self-irony are less likely to suffer from depression and are on good terms with others.

Frame from the series "What We Do in the Shadows"

At the same time, aggressive humor, especiallyunsuccessful, can signal mental health problems. The researchers found that such people are prone to self-destruction, which is associated with loneliness and feelings of underestimation of their own importance. However, lovers of aggressive humor are not always alone, relying on others and ridiculing peers.

Do you know what makes jokes funny and why not everyone understands them? The answer is here!

Laugh at yourself

Psychologists say that a sense of humor allowslook at yourself and your mental health from the outside. The good news is that a sense of humor can be developed simply by learning about its different styles. So, when thinking about the events in your own life, you should look at them positively and not focus on the negative aspects.

Iconic scene from Friends

Ultimately, developing a sense of humor increasesself-esteem. When we remember certain unpleasant events in our own lives, attention should be switched to positive aspects, which, as a rule, are constantly present, but often go unnoticed.

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Famous science fiction writer Kurt Vonnegut,for example, he did a great job with it. Having survived the war, the death of loved ones and other life hardships, he filled his works with humor, which makes even the most dramatic events easier to perceive, causing a smile:

Laughter and tears are equally a reactionto pain and disappointment, to the realization of the futility of further reasoning and struggle. I personally prefer laughter - after it you do not need to wash your face, and it rather restores the ability to fight and reflect, - Vonnegut wrote.

Vonnegut was convinced that laughter was a way to deal with discomfort or sadness (but that doesn't make laughter worse).

Another hero of the works of the American novelist, the creator of the fictional religion Bokonon in Cat's Cradle, did laughter is the best medicine in the world, reflecting Vonnegut's own opinion on this matter.