Cognitive Distortions, Humor Styles, and Depression

Katerina Rnic, David J. A. Dozois, Rod A. Martin


Cognitive distortions are negative biases in thinking that are theorized to represent vulnerability factors for depression and dysphoria. Despite the emphasis placed on cognitive distortions in the context of cognitive behavioural theory and practice, a paucity of research has examined the mechanisms through which they impact depressive symptomatology. Both adaptive and maladaptive styles of humor represent coping strategies that may mediate the relation between cognitive distortions and depressive symptoms. The current study examined the correlations between the frequency and impact of cognitive distortions across both social and achievement-related contexts and types of humor. Cognitive distortions were associated with reduced use of adaptive Affiliative and Self-Enhancing humor styles and increased use of maladaptive Aggressive and Self-Defeating humor. Reduced use of Self-Enhancing humor mediated the relationship between most types of cognitive distortions and depressed mood, indicating that distorted negative thinking may interfere with an individual’s ability to adopt a humorous and cheerful outlook on life (i.e., use Self-Enhancing humor) as a way of regulating emotions and coping with stress, thereby resulting in elevated depressive symptoms. Similarly, Self-Defeating humor mediated the association of the social impact of cognitive distortions with depression, such that this humor style may be used as a coping strategy for dealing with distorted thinking that ultimately backfires and results in increased dysphoria.


cognitive distortions; humor; depression; dysphoria; negative beliefs; cognitive vulnerability

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Citing articles (via Crossref)

  • Heidi L. Fritz, Leslie N. Russek, Melissa M. Dillon (2017)
    Humor Use Moderates the Relation of Stressful Life Events With Psychological Distress
    Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 43(6), p. 845(ff.)
    doi: 10.1177/0146167217699583