Is It You or Is It Me? Contrasting Effects of Ridicule Targeting Other People Versus the Self


  • Leslie M. Janes
  • James M. Olson


In this paper, we describe a program of research on the topic of ridicule, which explored the differing effects of observing either ridicule directed at other people or self-disparaging ridicule. In three studies, participants listened to humor that either ridiculed another person, ridiculed the self (the person expressing the humor), or involved no ridicule. Results in two studies showed that observing ridicule that targeted another person led participants to conform more to the alleged attitudes of others and to behave in ways suggesting a heightened fear of failure, compared to self-ridicule or no ridicule. In contrast, results in a third study showed that observing self-disparaging ridicule led participants to generate more creative ideas, compared to other-ridicule or no ridicule. The implications of these “inhibiting” effects of other-ridicule and “disinhibiting” effects of self-ridicule are discussed.