PSY30008 Psychology of Personality
Is Personality Associated With Humour Use?
The aim of the current study is to examine the association between personality and humour use, plus ONE of the following variables: self-esteem, affect (positive vs negative), and chronotype (Morningness-Eveningness). Overall, this project aims to add to a body of research examining the links between personality, humour styles, and wellbeing.
- To understand trait theories of personality.
- To consider how and why personality traits are associated with behaviour.
- To explore how a third variable may be involved in the above relationship.
- To be able to explain these ideas clearly and concisely.
- To be able to present information in a logical way to build the argument for your conclusions.
The way in which an individual uses humour is largely considered an extension of their personality (Martin, 2007). Martin, Puhlik-Doris, Larsen, Gray, and Weir (2003) proposed two primary goals of using humour; either to enhance oneself or to enhance one’s relationships with others. Whilst humour is traditionally touted as a positive trait that is solely beneficial to one’s functioning, research has shown that some forms of humour have detrimental outcomes (Kuiper & Martin, 1998; Martin, 2003). As such, Martin et al.’s (2003) model includes two ways of using humour to achieve the aforementioned primary goals; either in an adaptive or in a maladaptive way (Ruch & Heintz, 2013).
Martin et al. (2003) developed a self-report measure of the ways in which humour can be used called the Humour Styles Questionnaire (HSQ). The measure assesses four prominent humour styles that reflect the everyday functions of humour. The two forms of humour that are aimed at others include affiliative and aggressive humour. As their labels suggest, affiliative humour is aimed at promoting connections with others while aggressive humour is often used to criticize, tease, and put others down and, as such, is damaging to personal relationships (Martin et al., 2003). The two humour styles aimed at oneself are self-enhancing and self-defeating humour. Self-enhancing humour is essentially a positive outlook on life and can be used as an internal coping mechanism for stress and other negative situations. Self-defeating humour involves excessively demeaning comments about oneself in an attempt to fit in, or as a form of protective denial (Martin et al., 2003).
The HSQ was created on the postulation that humour is not unique to particular personalities, but rather that individuals express humour in a manner that reflects their wider personality traits (Schermer, Martin, Martin, Lynskey, & Vernon, 2013). A number of studies have examined the relationship between humour and personality and largely revealed consistent trends. Martin et al. (2003) demonstrated that individuals who use affiliative humour are more likely to have higher levels of extraversion and openness to experience. Those individuals who engage in self-enhancing humour are more likely to be higher in extraversion, agreeableness, openness to experience, and tend to be lower on neuroticism (Martin et al., 2003). Individuals who engage in aggressive humour are more likely to be higher in extraversion, but lower in agreeableness and conscientiousness (Martin et al., 2003). Finally, and perhaps unsurprisingly, those who engage in self-defeating humour tend to have higher levels of neuroticism and lower of levels of conscientiousness (Martin et al., 2003; Saroglou & Scariot, 2002) and agreeableness (Greven, Chamorro-Premuzic, Arteche, & Furnham, 2008).
Humour styles are also associated with an individual’s sense of subjective wellbeing (Martin et al., 2003; Ruch & Heintz, 2013). In essence, subjective wellbeing concerns an individual’s global, evaluative judgement of the quality of their life. The judgements are based on both cognitive and affective elements of health-related decision-making. The cognitive component broadly refers to an evaluation of one’s life satisfaction. A key aspect of this evaluation concerns one’s evaluation of their self-worth. The notion that humour reflects one’s subjective sense of self-worth is well established (Galloway, 2010; Kuiper, Grimshaw, Leite, & Kirsh, 2004; Martin et al., 2003; McCosker, & Moran, 2012). For example, the self-defeating style of humour involves self-disparaging comments and hence might reflect a decreased sense of self-worth. Galloway (2010) confirmed this hypothesis and found that whilst the use of aggressive humour involves putting others down, individuals who use this style of humour are likely themselves to have lower self-esteem.
Affective wellbeing, the second component of subjective wellbeing, describes the relative occurrence of positive versus negative moods that an individual commonly experiences (Schimmack, Schupp, & Wagner, 2008). Jovanovic (2011) found that both affiliative humour and self-enhancing humour were positively associated with affective wellbeing, and both aggressive and self-defeating humour styles were negatively associated with affective wellbeing. These results were consistent with Martin’s (2007) assertion that well-being indicators had stronger and more stable relations with adaptive humour styles than maladaptive humour styles.
That humour styles are associated with both cognitive and affective components of subjective well-being is a well established finding in the research literature. What is not so clear from the previous literature is the role that personality might play in these relationships. Does personality influence the nature of the relationship between humour styles and subjective wellbeing? More specifically, are some personality traits more effective than others in mitigating the negative consequences of maladaptive humour styles on subjective wellbeing? The answers to these questions will help deepen our understanding of the multiple interacting pathways between personality, humour styles, and subjective wellbeing.
An interesting individual difference factor related to personality is chronotype, also known as morningness (Adan et al., 2012). Chronotype refers to individual differences in time-of-day preferences and lies on a continuum, with morning preference (‘early risers’; ‘larks’) at one end and evening preference (‘late risers’; ‘owls’) at the other (Natale & Cicogna, 2002). Early risers/larks perform best both mentally and physically in the morning hours and retire early in the evening. Late risers/owls rise later in the morning and perform at their best in the late afternoon or evening (Adan et al., 2012). Prior research has shown that conscientiousness in particular, but also sometimes agreeableness and emotional stability are positively correlated with morningness (DeYoung, Hasher, Djikic, Criger, & Peterson, 2007; Hogben, Ellis, Archer, & Von Schantz, 2007; Randler, 2008a). Limited research has investigated whether chronotype and humour style are related, although Randler (2008b) found that participants classified as evening types were more likely to score higher on a sense of humour scale than those classified as morning people. Whether adaptive and maladaptive humour styles are differentially associated with chronotype is an open question. Similarly unclear from the research literature is the role that personality might play in the relationship between chronotype and humour styles. Investigation of such relationships is important for deepening our understanding of the multiple interacting pathways between these variables.
Overall aims of the current study
The first aim of the current study is to examine the associations between the Five Factor Model of personality and the four humour styles of Martin et al. (2003) using an Australian sample. The second aim is to investigate the potential role that chronotype, self-worth, or affect (choose ONE only) may play in the relationship between personality and humour styles.
The sample consisted of 270 participants (M age = 27.81 years, range 19-53 years; 73% women). Two participants did not enter their age.
Demographic variables: Demographic information was collected, including gender (male, female, or other), age, and highest level of education (Year 12 or less, Trade certificate or equivalent, Partially completed degree, Degree or Postgraduate degree).
Personality: The Goldberg (1990) Personality scale includes 50 items measuring the Big Five personality factors. Participants were asked to describe themselves honestly in relation to other people they know of the same sex and roughly the same age. Responses were indicated on a scale using anchors (1) ‘Very Inaccurate’ to (5) “Very Accurate” for 50 statements.
Humour Styles: The 32-item Humour Styles Questionnaire (Martin, Puhlik-Doris, Larsen, Gray, & Weir, 2003) was used to measure the way in which participants express humour. The scale consists of four sub-scales, namely; affiliative (e.g., “I laugh and joke a lot with my closest friends”), self-enhancing (e.g., “If I’m feeling depressed, I can usually cheer myself up with humour”), self-defeating (e.g., “I let people laugh at me or make fun at my expense”) and aggressive humour (e.g., “If someone makes a mistake, I will often tease them about it”). Participant responses were made on a 7-point Likert scale, with anchors (1) “Totally Disagree” and (7) “Totally Agree.”
Affect: The Positive Affect Negative Affect Scale Extended (PANAS-X; Watson, Clark & Tellegen, 1988) was used to measure the affective component of participants’ subjective wellbeing. Participants were asked to respond to 60 words and phrases that describe different feelings and emotions (e.g., jittery) and whether they have felt these emotions the day prior to participating. Responses were indicated on a 5-point Likert scale with anchors (1) “Very slightly/Not at all” to (5) “Extremely”.
Self-Worth: Rosenberg’s Self-Esteem Scale (SES; Rosenberg, 1965) was used to measure the cognitive component of subjective well-being – participants’ sense of self-worth. It is a 10-item scale measuring how one feels about oneself (e.g., “I feel that I have a number of good qualities”). Responses are given on a 4-point scale ranging from (1) ‘Strongly Disagree’ to (4) ‘Strongly Agree’. Higher scores correspond with higher self-esteem.
Chronotype: The Munich Chronotype Questionnaire (MCTQ; Roenneberg, Wirz-Justice & Merrow, 2003) was used to assess participants’ morningness-eveningness preference. The MCTQ consists of 20 items related to sleep/wake habits followed by a single, 7-point, self-assessment item of chronotype, ranging from (1) “Extreme early type” to (7) “Extreme late type”. For the purposes of this assignment, the single self-assessment item was used to indicate participants’ chronotype, so low scores indicate a preference for morningness.
Note: The maximum number of words is the absolute maximum and markers may stop reading at the word limit. Everything, except for the reference list, is included in the word count.
The assignment consists of three sections:
- Hypotheses (300 words max; contributes 15% to the overall mark for the assignment)
- Results (500 words max; contributes 25% to the overall mark for the assignment)
- Discussion (1200 words max; contributes 50% to the overall mark for the assignment)
(Note: 10% of the overall mark is assessed on the quality of the grammar/expression and adherence to APA 6th referencing style).
Section 1 – Hypotheses / Research Aims (max 300 words)
Students must propose TWO hypotheses, one for each of the two aims described on Page 3. Both hypotheses must incorporate personality (choose one or more personality factors).
Please note – the important aspect of this section is to present clear and understandable hypotheses/research questions that can be tested using the given data. This section is not assessed on the complexity or difficulty of the question(s) being posed. It is about being able to write testable hypotheses. If in doubt go for clarity.
Learning Objectives Assessed: You will be assessed on your ability to:
- Write testable hypotheses/research questions.
- Present the hypotheses/research questions in a clear and coherent manner.
Section 2 – Results (max 500 words)
In this section descriptive data and the findings of the analyses conducted to test your hypotheses are presented.
Learning Objectives Assessed: You will be assessed on your ability to:
- Conduct the appropriate analyses to test your research question / hypotheses.
- Present results according to APA standards.
- Convey understanding of the results in a clear and concise way. This section is not assessed on complexity of the statistics used – unless these are appropriate for answering the question. An equally high mark may be achieved by utilising univariate statistics correctly as could be obtained using multivariate statistics. The important aspect of this section is using the correct statistical methods to answer the question posed.
Section 3 – Discussion (max 1200 words)
In this section you will discuss the findings relevant to your hypotheses/research questions. Students should indicate if the hypotheses/research questions were supported (or not) and interpret the findings in the context of previous research and the implications for personality theory. Next, students should consider the practical or applied implications of their findings. Following this, there should be a consideration of the methodological limitations of the research, and how they may have impacted on the findings. Finally, a coherent conclusion is expected.
Learning Objectives Assessed: You will be assessed on your ability to:
- Demonstrate understanding of the theories and concepts.
- Use the theories to explain your results.
- Coherently consider applications of the findings for theory and practice.
- Present a logical argument in a clear and concise manner.
- Present the methodological limitations that may have influenced the findings.
- Present a coherent conclusion.
(Check if referenced to APA 6th standards!!! You do not need to read all of them, but make sure you at least read those relevant to YOUR hypotheses).
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DeYoung, C. G., Hasher, L., Djikic, M., Criger, B., & Peterson, J. B. (2007) Morning people are stable people: circadian rhythm and the higher-order factors of the Big Five. Personality and Individual Differences, 43, 267-276.
Galloway, G. (2010). Individual differences in personal humor styles: Identification of prominent patterns and their associates. Personality and Individual Differences, 48, 563-567.
Goldberg, L.R. 1990. An alternative ‘‘description of personality’’: The Big-Five factor structure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 59, 1216-1229.
Goldstein, D., Hahn, C., Hasher, L., Wiprzycka, U. J., & Zelazo, P. D. (2007). Time of day, intellectual performance, and behavioral problems in Morning versus Evening type adolescents: Is there a synchrony effect? Personality and Individual Differences, 42, 431-440.
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Hogben, A.L., Ellis, J., Archer, S.N., & Von Schantz, M. (2007). Conscientiousness is a predictor of diurnal preference. Chronobiology International, 24, 1249-1254. doi:10.1080/07420520701791596
Jovanovic, V. (2011) Do humor styles matter in the relationship between personality and subjective well-being? Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 52, 502–507.
Kuiper, N.A., Grimshaw, M., Leite, C., & Kirsh, G. (2004). Humor is not always the best medicine: Specific components of sense of humor and psychological well-being. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research, 17, 135-168. NOT AVAILABLE?
Kuiper, N.A., & Martin, R.A. (1998). Is sense of humor a positive personality characteristic? In W. Ruch (Ed.), The sense of humor: Explorations of a personality characteristic (pp. 159–178). New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
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Martin, R.A. 2007. The psychology of humor: An integrative approach. Burlington. MA: Elsevier Academic Press.
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Randler, C. (2008b). Evening types among German university students score higher on sense of humor after controlling for big five personality factors. Psychological Reports, 103, 361-370. doi: 10.2466/PR0.103.2.361-370
Roenneberg, T., Wirz-Justice, A., & Merrow, M. (2003). Life between clocks: Daily temporal patterns of human chronotypes. Journal of Biological Rhythms, 18(1), 80-90. doi:10.1177/0748730402239679
Rosenberg, M. (1986). Conceiving the Self. Krieger: Malabar, FL. NOT AVAILABLE.
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