Sense of Humor, Stable Affect, and Psychological Well-Being

Arnie Cann, Chantal Collette


A good sense of humor has been implicated as a quality that could contribute to psychological well-being. The mechanisms through which sense of humor might operate include helping to reappraise threats, serving as a character strength, or facilitating happiness. The current research attempts to integrate these possibilities by examining whether a good sense of humor might operate globally by helping to maintain a more stable positive affect. Stable positive affect has been shown to facilitate more effective problem solving and to build resilience. However, not all humor is adaptive humor, so we also examine the roles that different styles of humor use might play. Individual differences in humor styles were used to predict stable levels of affect. Then, in a longitudinal design, humor styles and stable affect were used to predict subsequent resilience and psychological health. The results indicated that stable affect was related to resilience and psychological well-being, and that a sense of humor that involves self-enhancing humor, humor based on maintaining a humorous perspective about one’s experiences, was positively related to stable positive affect, negatively related to stable negative affect, and was mediated through stable affect in influencing resilience, well-being and distress. Thus, while a good sense of humor can lead to greater resilience and better psychological health, the current results, focusing on stable affect, find only self-enhancing humor provides reliable benefits.


sense of humor; positive affect; resilience; psychological health; well-being

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