Aggressive humor: not always aggressive

Date of Award


Degree Name

M.A. in General Psychology


Department of Psychology


Advisor: Carolyn E. Roecker Phelps


Humor is generally seen as adaptive. Research has found it is related to overall positive mood and psychological health (Martin, 2001). However, some types of humor, such as aggressive humor, can also be used to ridicule or belittle others (Martin et al., 2003). Aggressive humor has yet to be examined in different contexts in order to determine if there are positive consequences. The present study examines the role of context (friendship and non-friendship) in the perception of aggressive humor. Participants completed measures of mood, social intelligence, humor use, social dominance orientation and self-determination prior to viewing video clips of aggressive humor within friendship and non-friendship contexts and evaluating the perpetrator of the humor. Results showed that aggressive humor was viewed as more rude and hurtful when used in a non-friendship context. However, those who use aggressive humor in a friendship, rather than non-friendship, context were evaluated as having more social skills and awareness. Additionally, females who use aggressive humor were viewed as more rude than males, and males and females did not differ on this evaluation. Based on these findings, humor research should consider relationship context and gender of those engaging in the humor.


Joking relationships, Aggressiveness, Wit and humor Social aspects, Social interaction, Psychology; aggressive humor; humor; friendships; aggressive intent; interpersonal relationships; relationship context

Rights Statement

Copyright © 2013, author