Sigmund Freud famously once said: “A cigar may just be a cigar, but a joke is never just a joke.” He implied that there are several different types of sense of humor and that somehow they were related to our personalities.

This could be true. I mean look at any dating site profile and you will see that one of the main requirements from a potential date is a good sense of humor.

Humor undoubtedly separates us from other animals, but is it possible that the type of humor we use can reveal our personality? Studies certainly back this up.

In 2003, Martin et al devised the Humor Styles Questionnaire (HSQ) which identified four types of sense of humor:

  1. Affiliative
  2. Self-defeating
  3. Self-enhancing
  4. Aggressive

Affiliative humor – The Joke Teller

This humor type is associated with those who like to tell jokes or funny stories that are not degrading or offensive to anyone. People who have this type of humor tend to use it in order to enhance their relationships and get on with others.

What it reveals about you:

Affiliative humor users are well-balanced individuals who are secure in their relationships and place a high value on friendships. They are able to build close bonds with others and are emotionally stable. They are happy to show their true selves in order for a more intimate relationship. They like challenges and new experiences and have a wide network of friends. They are group-orientated and do not get stressed easily.

Self-defeating humor – The Class Clown

This humor type often uses humor in a self-deprecating way in order to make others laugh. They will typically laugh along when they are the butt of a joke and be disparaging about themselves.

What it reveals about you:

Those who use this type of humor are able to trust and form close bonds, but they also tend to be significantly more anxious and depressed than others.

They show signs of neurotic behavior and have less confidence in themselves. Lacking self-esteem, they crave approval and validation from others and get quickly stressed.

Self-enhancing humor – The Optimist

We all know that one irritating person that is never sad and tells us to always look on the bright side. This type of sense of humor reflects the eternal optimist, one who tends to be happy in the face of adversity and is able to cheer oneself up.

What it reveals about you:

People tend to use this type of humor as a way of coping with the stresses and strains of the world. They are able to laugh at themselves in a good-humored way and this humor is known to be a good way of coping with stress.

These types have fairly high self-esteem and always try to be optimistic about life. They respect themselves too much to be self-deprecating when it comes to humor. They make the best out of life and use humor as a tool against stress.

Aggressive humor – The Sarcastic One

As it suggests, aggressive humor includes sarcastic put-downs, teasing, making fun of others at their expense, and is the most hurtful of all the humor types. This sort of humor is often used to manipulate people and control them.

What it reveals about you:

Aggressive humor is linked to higher levels of neuroticism and lower levels of agreeableness. It is more prevalent in men than women and is also associated with racism and sexism.

Often critical of others, you let this criticism out in the form of aggressive humor. That way you can justify it by saying you were only joking. You use humor to shut people down and tend to close yourself off from others. You are a loner by nature and have few close friends.

Except for the different types of sense of humor, it also varies depending on the sexes and cultures.

How humor differs between the sexes

Psychologist Richard Wiseman revealed in his book Quirkology how humor differs between the genders. Studies showed that twice as many women laugh at men’s jokes than men laugh at women’s jokes. Men tell the majority of jokes and while they like women to laugh at them they don’t like women to tell jokes.

How humor differs between the cultures

Dr. Tim Sharp, psychologist and chief happiness officer at the Happiness Institute, explored the difference between British and Australian humor and American. He found that certain programmes such as Monty Python, popular in the UK and Australia, were not found funny in the US. It was thought that Americans do not like to spend too much time working out a joke.

Having a sense of humor is unique to us and is incredibly important. It can help with stress, can relieve depression, pull us closer to others and get us through hard times. It also gives us a great insight into one another’s personality.

So next time you see that someone has checked the ‘good sense of humor’ box on their profile, bear in mind it is the type of humor that is revealing, not just whether they have one or not.



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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Jim Pickens

    What about someone who has a warped or morbid since of humor

  2. Andy

    A lot of these ‘studies’ are very cut and dried. They don’t take into consideration that everyone is different. Someone may be sarcastic, but can also be endearing with it and not malicious. It depends on the person.

  3. Beeps

    Agree. Far too black and white whole people are shades of grey (scuse the cliche), I love sarcasm, I think it’s hilarious (as do many Scottish people) but I’m also extremely empathetic and would never use it to hurt others. I also love self deprecating humour but I’m not depressed or insecure…

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