Title of Abstract

Traumatic Life Experiences and Use of Dark Humor

Faculty Mentor

One WU mentor: Merry Sleigh, Ph.D.; sleighm@winthrop.edu

College

College of Arts and Sciences

Department

Psychology

Faculty Mentor

Merry Sleigh, Ph.D.

Abstract

We examined how prior exposure to generalized trauma relates to a preference for and use of dark humor. We hypothesized that adults who had experienced increased trauma in their lives would be more receptive to dark humor. Via an online platform, participants viewed 6 dark humor statements and indicated how funny and offensive they found each statement, as well as whether they would be comfortable repeating the statement to a friend or a family member. Participants then responded to the Humor Styles Questionnaire and the Life Events. Our hypothesis was supported. Adults who had experienced more trauma found the dark humor funnier and were more willing to share it with others. Dark humor may be used as a coping mechanism, supported by our finding that those high in trauma used humor for affiliative purposes. Alternatively, perhaps trauma desensitizes people to the darkness in such humor. In support of this possibility, African American adults, a group vulnerable to social injustice, rated the dark humor as less funny. Men seemed to use humor in more goal-oriented ways than did women; however, these two groups did not differ in their self-reported willingness to share our dark humor or how funny they found it to be. This lack of gender difference contradicts earlier research and may reflect a changing societal dynamic. Age, political orientation, religious adherence, and sexual orientation did not predict perceptions of or use of humor, suggesting some commonalities in how adults use humor.

Additional Fields About Your Abstract

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Course Assignment

PSYC 302 - Sleigh

Other Presentations/Performances

Southeastern Psychological Association Conference, Virtual, March 2021

Recognized with an Award?

Committee for Equality in Professional Opportunities Research Award, awarded March 2021, Southeastern Psychological Association

Start Date

1-1-2021 12:00 AM

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Jan 1st, 12:00 AM

Traumatic Life Experiences and Use of Dark Humor

We examined how prior exposure to generalized trauma relates to a preference for and use of dark humor. We hypothesized that adults who had experienced increased trauma in their lives would be more receptive to dark humor. Via an online platform, participants viewed 6 dark humor statements and indicated how funny and offensive they found each statement, as well as whether they would be comfortable repeating the statement to a friend or a family member. Participants then responded to the Humor Styles Questionnaire and the Life Events. Our hypothesis was supported. Adults who had experienced more trauma found the dark humor funnier and were more willing to share it with others. Dark humor may be used as a coping mechanism, supported by our finding that those high in trauma used humor for affiliative purposes. Alternatively, perhaps trauma desensitizes people to the darkness in such humor. In support of this possibility, African American adults, a group vulnerable to social injustice, rated the dark humor as less funny. Men seemed to use humor in more goal-oriented ways than did women; however, these two groups did not differ in their self-reported willingness to share our dark humor or how funny they found it to be. This lack of gender difference contradicts earlier research and may reflect a changing societal dynamic. Age, political orientation, religious adherence, and sexual orientation did not predict perceptions of or use of humor, suggesting some commonalities in how adults use humor.