The Sense of Humor Questionnaire: Conceptualization and Review of 40 Years of Findings in Empirical Research


  • Sven Svebak


This paper presents the background for developing the Sense of Humor Questionnaire (SHQ), including ideas that guided the ambition to design a tool for assessment of individual differences in sense of humor that was relatively neutral to variations in culture, content and technique. The test was first organized into three dimensions of items, based on face validity of content, with items oriented to openness to ambiguity, preference for humorous situations and emotional suggestibility. The first revision reduced items from twenty-seven to twenty-two. A second revision presented seven items on each of three dimensions that were theoretically founded on ideas of person-situation interactions. Research found that items on meta-message sensitivity (M-items) and liking of humorous situations (L-items) yielded fair alphas, whereas those on mirthful expression (E-items) did not. A review of research is presented based on scores from the M- and L-items of the SHQ. The SHQ-6 is a short form including three items from the M- and the L-dimensions, respectively. This scale has proven effective in research across a vide range of applications including the role of sense of humor in mood, coping, morbidity and mortality. An ultra-short version (SHQ-3) was included in a population health survey and provided descriptive evidence on the prevalence of sense of humor as well as the positive role for sense of humor in surviving into retirement. After age seventy this protective effect of sense of humor faded away.