At whose expense? System justification and the appreciation of stereotypical humor targeting high- versus low-status groups

Dean Baltiansky, Maureen A. Craig, John T. Jost

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Many popular comedians tell complicated jokes that involve multiple levels of interpretation. The same joke may be perceived as criticizing or reinforcing the societal status quo, depending on perceivers' assumptions about the target of the punchline (e.g., whether the joke is at the expense of high- or low-status groups). We focused on how such jokes are experienced by listeners who are psychologically prone to justifying (vs. challenging) the status quo. In a sample of Mechanical Turk workers (N = 179), we explored whether individual differences in system justification would be associated with the appreciation of group-based (stereotypical) humor, depending on the perceived target of the joke. As hypothesized, high system-justifiers found jokes targeting low-status groups (e.g., women, poor people, racial/ethnic minorities) to be funnier than low system-justifiers did. In some cases, low system-justifiers found jokes targeting high-status groups (rich people, European Americans) to be funnier than high system-justifiers did. These results expand upon previous demonstrations that humor appreciation is linked to relatively stable ideological dispositions and suggest that different individuals may perceive complex group-based humor in divergent ways.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalHumor
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • joke targets
  • motivated humor appreciation
  • stereotypical humor
  • system justification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Psychology(all)
  • Linguistics and Language

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