Searching for the Sense of Humor: Stereotypes of Ourselves and Others

Bernard C. Beins, Shawn M. O’Toole


Researchers have made consistent claims that people do not have an awareness of their humor competence and that the vast majority of people claim to have an above-average sense of humor. In this study, we examined whether people’s self reports of humor competence matched an independent measurement of sense of humor. We also investigated participants’ self-reported personality characteristics to see if they attributed to themselves the same characteristics that participants in earlier research attributed to hypothetical others that shared their level of humor competence. Participants completed the Multidimensional Sense of Humor Scale (MSHS) and inventories based on the Big Five model of personality. The results revealed that participants had a realistic view of their humor competence. Their self-perceived humor competence correlated reliably with their scores on the MSHS. In addition, they characterized themselves on the personality inventories in the way that previous research participants evaluated others. Participants’ self-reports matched the stereotypes they had of imaginary others for extraversion and neuroticism, but not for agreeableness and openness. The findings suggest that people hold implicit theories of the link between humor and personality and apply it reliably both to themselves and to others. Results are discussed in terms of the need to study humor as multidimensional construct and in light of expectations of evolutionary theory.


Sense of humor; stereotypes; implicit theories of personality; personality traits

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