Self-Deprecating Humor Promotes Psychological Well-Being, Science Says


Trending News: Want To Boost Your Mood? Poke A Little Fun At Yourself

Long Story Short

Are you one of those jerks who’s always making awkward jokes at his own expense? Good news! You’re not as psychologically damaged as you appear, apparently.

Long Story

Are you constantly bringing the tone of office meetings down by making jokes about your personal hygiene and how your girlfriend hates you and the fact you still live with your parents? Well, good news, because apparently you’re psychologically healthier than the rest of us.

That’s the conclusion of new research from the University of Granada’s Mind, Brain and Behaviour Research Centre, published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences. Pulling together 1068 adults aged 18 to 65 across five different studies, researchers found that individuals who frequently use self-deprecating humor — aimed at gaining the approval of others through self-mockery — exhibit greater levels of psychological well-being.

It’s an interesting result in and of itself (you sad sack). But it also runs counter to research literature that has suggested self-effacing humor is exclusively associated with negative psychological effects.

“We have observed that a greater tendency to employ self-defeating humor is indicative of high scores in psychological well-being dimensions such as happiness and, to a lesser extent, sociability,” says Jorge Torres Marín in a press release. Marín is one of the UGR researchers on the project.

“The results, as well as being consistent with the positive connotations traditionally attributed to the act of ‘laughing at oneself’ in our country, also suggest that the effects of self-defeating humor on well-being may differ depending on where the research takes place. Consequently, we believe it is necessary to conduct new studies aimed at analyzing potential cultural differences in the use of this kind of humor.”

And there’s one of the issues with this type of research: the differences in humor across different cultures and the ever-shifting nature of what people find funny. Still, the researchers reckon their studies fit into one of the theoretical models that aim to overcome these limitations.

“This should enable us to discern the different behavioral tendencies related to the everyday use of humor,” says co-author Hugo Carretero Dios, “which can be classified in even greater depth by focusing on their adaptive, as opposed to their harmful, natures.”

Basically, what the researchers are finding is that self-defeating humor is an adaptive style of humor, aimed at strengthening social relationships. And it’s these types of humor that have been linked to indicators of positive psychological well-being such as happiness, satisfaction with life and hope.

Still, it’s not all great news. Self-defeating humor was also linked to a greater tendency to suppress anger, but not in a healthy way: rather one that triggers passive-aggressive behaviors. You need to sort that out, bro.

In the end though, the research will make sense to many people in the U.S., Australia and the U.K. What they’re talking about a lot of the time isn’t profoundly negative self-talk, but simple self-effacement. 

While that may have previously been linked to negative mental health outcomes, does anyone really think the most well-adjusted guy in the room is the one whose jokes always end with him coming out on top? Probably not.

Own The Conversation

Ask The Big Question

So how self-effacing is too self-effacing?

Drop This Fact

Humour is more important than pay in the workplace. An industry-wide study of over 2,500 people found that 55 percent of workers would take less pay to have more fun at work.



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