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Psychol Rep. 1990 Feb;66(1):51-8.

Benefits of humor in reduction of threat-induced anxiety.

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Allegheny College, Meadville, PA 16335.


The benefits of humor in reducing anxiety were investigated in a laboratory study, in which subjects were falsely led to believe that they would receive a shock in 12 min. Participants were 53 undergraduate students with either high or low sense of humor as measured by the Situational Humor Response Questionnaire of Martin and Lefcourt (1984). During the anticipatory period, subjects listened to either a humorous tape, a nonhumorous tape, or no tape. Dependent variables were repeated measures of self-reported anxiety, heart rate, and zygomatic facial activity. Anxiety increased over the anticipatory period, as predicted. A significant interaction between condition and time indicated that subjects from the humor condition consistently rated themselves as less anxious and reported less increase in stress as the shock approached. A three-way interaction concentrating on the final 3 min. indicated a tendency for subjects with low sense of humor to have higher heart rates in the no-tape condition than in the humorous or nonhumorous tape conditions. Analysis for zygomatic activity indicated more smiling by subjects with high sense of humor and by subjects in the humor condition. Also, the humorous tape elicited more smiling by subjects with high sense of humor.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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