Is your humour helping or harming you?


Posted on March 1st, by Dr Rob Yeung .

What makes some people more likely to be bullied? The surprising answer may be partly to do with the humour that different people use.

Researchers at Keele University looked at children aged 11 to 13 years of age and asked them about the styles of humour that they used. The researchers found that children who used self-deprecating types of humour (e.g. laughing at their own flaws or the mistakes they had made) were the most likely to get bullied.

Laughing at themselves perhaps encouraged other children to laugh at them and then bully them too.

The researchers identified four different types of humour.  Two are positive and two are negative.  But only the negative, self-defeating type (described further below) led to children being bullied more.

Now this is speculation on my part, but I wonder if the same might be true in adulthood.

Are adults who use self-defeating humour more likely to get picked on at work or amongst their friends?

If so, we might all do well to use positive humour such as telling jokes and funny stories or even just laughing more at the situations we find ourselves in.

The four types of humour
Positive humour

  • Self-enhancing humour, e.g. ‘If I am feeling scared I find that it helps to laugh’.
  • Affiliative, e.g. ‘I often make other people laugh by telling jokes and funny stories’.

Negative humour

  • Self-defeating, e.g. ‘I often try to get other people to like me more by saying something funny about things that are wrong with me or mistakes that I make’.
  • Aggressive, e.g. ‘If someone makes a mistake I will often tease them about it’.

You can read a summary of the research here.





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