What tickles your funny bone? Hearing a friend wryly tell how they almost face-planted on the sidewalk would be enough for some. Others may take a more adversarial attitude, favouring jokes that entail someone else being insulted. Then there are other things that practically everyone would find amusing, such as the viral videos we see on social media every day.
You've probably heard the saying that comedy is subjective, meaning that different people find different things amusing. Various features of humour styles have been studied by psychologists and other scholars in recent decades. The majority of this research is devoted to determining what our humour choices reveal about us as persons, and more specifically, what they say about our mental health. Let’s have a look.
According to Dr Mehezabin Dordi, clinical psychologist, rehabilitation and sports medicine department, Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital, Mumbai, humour is widely recognised as a factor in improving one's subjective well-being (both physical and psychological). “Previous studies on humour and psychological well-being have found that humour is a key factor in reaching and maintaining higher levels of psychological well-being. This is known as the general comprehension of humour hypothesis,” she says.
Essentially, there are two types of humour. Dr Dordi lists them as adaptive and maladaptive humour.
Adaptive Humour: Facilitative and self-enhancing humour make up adaptive humour.
Maladaptive Humour: Self-defeating and aggressive humour are examples of maladaptive humour.
They are further divided into different styles, which is the kind of humour one enjoys.
1. Affiliative Style: Individuals with this sense of humour are more likely to utilise jokes to strengthen bonds, amuse others, and relieve tensions. It's utilised to improve one's relationships with others in a positive, compassionate way. This type of comedy is usually utilised in a good-natured, self-accepting manner. Individuals frequently use humour to captivate and amuse others, as well as to relieve tension and improvise. They tell jokes on the spur of the moment, constantly engage in clever conversation, and love laughing with others.
2. Self-Enhancing Style: People who fall under this kind of humour have a hilarious outlook on life. Self-enhancing humour is often used as a stress-relieving method by people. It has to do with having a positive attitude toward life and being able to laugh at yourself, your circumstances, and life's quirks in a constructive, non-detrimental way.
3. Aggressive Style: It is a type of humour that has the potential to be harmful to others. Racist jokes, sarcasm, and disparaging of individuals for the sake of amusement are all permitted. This form of humour is utilised by those who don't think about the ramifications of their jokes and are solely concerned with the enjoyment of the audience. Aggressive comedy frequently ignores the effect it may have on others. Racism and sexism are examples of the aggressive style of humour. This style of humour may appear to be harmless fun at times, but the underlying purpose is often to injure or degrade others.
4. Self-Defeating Style: Self-defeating comedy is a type of humour that involves the use of potentially harmful humour directed against oneself in order to obtain acceptance from others. This type of humour is characterised by the use of self-deprecating jokes to entertain others, as well as the tendency to laugh along with others when ridiculed. People are said to employ this type of comedy as a means of social acceptance. It is also stated that these individuals may have an underlying sense of negativity. As a result, people utilise humour to mask their inner negative feelings.
Sense Of Humour And Mental Well-being
Now that we know about the types and style of humour, it can help us understand how our sense of humour impacts our mental health. “High levels of adaptive type humour (affiliative and self-enhancing) are linked to higher levels of self-esteem, pleasant affect, self-competence, anxiety control, and social interactions. On the other hand, maladaptive humour (aggressive and self-defeating) is linked to a lower level of general psychological well-being, with an emphasis on anxiety and despair,” Dr Dordi elaborates.
Depending on its properties, humour can be beneficial or harmful to one's mental health.