The Psychology of Humor

July 01, 2020

A special topics course

Know any good jokes? 

Humor is considered a virtue that is desirable to increase our well-being and feelings of belonging. Most of us would welcome more of those feelings in today's world. But how does humor work?

A 300-level special topic course will explore the psychology of humor. Once thought of as a silly topic for research, humor is now widely studied as a means for testing basic theories of human behavior, for understanding how we integrate cognitive, social, and emotional information that allows for the appreciation, comprehension, and production of humor, and for exploring cross-cultural values and responses to social interactions.

The course is taught by Janet Gibson, professor of psychology, who published a textbook on the subject: An Introduction to the Psychology of Humor (Routledge, 2019).  Written for undergraduates, the book highlights extensive research conducted by psychologists from ten major psychological perspectives (cognitive, biological, personality, social, cross-cultural, developmental, health, positive, clinical, and applied). Students will connect theories and methods of each perspective to research on how humor functions in our everyday life. 

Gibson wrote the textbook after teaching a Tutorial on the psychology of humor in 2014 and because undergraduates do not get much exposure to this huge body of literature in their undergraduate courses. She was encouraged to do so in 2016 by Chris Johnson '89 who worked in publishing.



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