Clowning Around: Psychology and humor

Assumption College Undergraduate

STEM teachers Everybody loves a good joke, even academics, some of who think so highly of humor that they created a professional association dedicated to the subject: The International Society of Humor Studies. This group of biologists and psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists publish HUMOR: The International Journal of Humor Research.

But what about when the joke’s on one of us? While laughing with others creates a positive environment, laughing at others — known as disparagement humor — may show a lack of empathy, according to Assumption class of 2014 graduate Peter Bui. Bui received the Mary Whiton Calkins Award in psychology last year and is currently a graduate student in Assumption’s Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology program.

Presented at the Undergraduate Research Symposium last year, Bui’s psychological research explored The Effects of Empathy on Disparaging Humor, looking at why some people laugh at the misfortune of others.

“Perceiving humor and experiencing empathy are both based on the ability to understand others’ mental states, intentions and feelings,” his research states.

Bui found that experiencing empathy towards a stranger makes us less likely to laugh at this person’s misfortune.

Whether you’re considering an undergraduate or graduate degree in psychology, you will eventually learn that humor can be good for our mental health. Some psychological benefits to humor include:

  • Reduced:
    • Anxiety
    • Tension
    • Stress
    • Depression
    • Loneliness
  • Improved Self Esteem
  • Restoration of hope
  • Increased energy
  • A sense of empowerment and control

And that’s no joke.

Assumption College psychology has been featured in New England Psychologist for its devotion to faculty-student partnerships and research opportunities for students every year of their undergraduate degree.

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