Humour research: Promises and pitfalls

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To those of us who value humour at a personal level, it can seem self-evident that humour must be good for us. The use of humour in areas such as health and education that involve potentially vulnerable others, however, requires justification based on more than our personal liking. Research is necessary to test specific claims about the benefits of humour. This approach means we must also consider the negative aspects of humour, including its potential to harm. It means we must not accept a lower standard of scrutiny about evidence than that we would expect in other areas of scholarship. Yet publications on humour too often have been characterized by positive bias, zealous over-interpretations of research outcomes, and unabashed declarations of scientific proof based simply on the use of physiological measures. The larger part of research work on humour is solid, with promising results. Such research encourages those of us working in health and education to extend our application of humour in these areas. A call for rigor in the research context does not mean we should never speculate about the effects of humour on variables such as wellbeing, health, creativity and resilience. This paper extends the above arguments, with examples of my own and others' research on humour in health and education. The paper concludes with an affirmation of the value of humour and laughter in professional contexts, but it also endorses the enjoyment of humour for its own sake occasionally, without the need quantify every effect.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-40
Number of pages12
JournalAustralian Journal of Communication
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2002


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