The Impact of Humor in North American versus Middle East Cultures


  • Nicholas A. Kuiper
  • Shahe S. Kazarian
  • Jessica Sine
  • Margaret Bassil


North American (Canadian) and Middle East (Lebanese) participants rated their reactions to four different humorous comments (self-enhancing, affiliative, self-defeating, and aggressive), presented by others in brief scenarios. Consistent with predictions generated from a humor styles model originally formulated in a North American context, all participants responded most negatively to aggressive humorous comments by indicating the saddest mood, the highest ratings of rejection, and the least desire to continue interacting with the person making the comments. Only the North American participants showed a distinctive positive reaction to the self-enhancing humorous comments by displaying the happiest mood, the least rejection, and the greatest desire to continue with the interaction. In contrast, the Middle East Lebanese participants did not differentiate in their responses between self-enhancing, affiliative and self-defeating humorous comments. These findings were considered in light of cultural distinctions in collectivistic versus individualistic self-construals. Here, it was suggested that the collectivistic self-construals that characterize Lebanese Middle East participants may have blurred the self versus other distinctions in the humor styles model, thus leading to significantly less humor differentiation in a Lebanese Middle East context. The implications of these findings for further cross-cultural work on humor and its impact in social interactions was then considered.