Content of Disparaging Humor: Reactions and Coping Responses

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Kimberly Schneider

Mentor Department



Disparaging humor, jokes that insult or devalue an individual or group of individuals, are often used to express prejudice (Mallett, Ford, &Woodzicka, 2016) and can negatively impact a targeted group and its members. We focus in this study on qualitative data from a larger dataset where participants were asked to recall a time when a social group they belonged to were either excluded or included (via random assignment to condition). We were particularly interested in participants' descriptions of the content of the exclusion incident in terms of the social category that was targeted as well as participants' emotional reactions to the incident. We examine potential differences in emotional reactions and coping responses based on the nature and content of the exclusion incident and compare emotional reactions of those who were targets of disparaging humor and those who felt included. Procedure: Participants were 167 Amazon MTURK workers who completed an adapted recall task, in which participants recalled an autobiographical memory and wrote an essay (Wesselmann & Williams, 2017). In our version, participants either recalled the details of their previous afternoon (control condition), a time in which they heard someone tell a joke that disparaged a social group that they belonged to (disparaging condition) or a time when they felt included based on a social group that they belonged to (inclusion condition). For this study, we coded the content of the disparaging humor (exclusion) and inclusion incidents. We also coded both positive and negative emotions and participants' free recall of their coping responses in the disparaging humor incidents. Results (to date): Thus far, we have begun coding data based on both category description of the content of the incident (gender, race/ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, etc.), emotional reactions (both positive and negative), and coping responses to the incident. We have three raters and have finished initial coding with reliabilities and interrater correlations over .80. Next, we will examine differences via a series of t-tests and ANOVAs based on exclusion/inclusion participants' emotions and potential difference in coping responses based on the content of the disparaging humor incident. Conclusions and implications: We anticipate that our data will provide preliminary support indicating the range of negative emotions that individuals experience when a social group to which they belong is the target of disparaging humor. We will also describe themes that emerged based on both emotional reactions and coping responses.


Muzzarelli-undergraduate, Nisivaco-undergraduate, Augustyn-undergraduate

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