What Does Your Sense of Humor Tell About You

sense of humor

Having a sense of humor is considered a positive personality trait. It helps you make friends easier, get over an embarrassing moment and improves your mood. Being able to see life’s quirkiness as funny, understanding jokes, and creating fun games enhances one’s quality of life. But most of us don’t know that scientists are investigating the sense of humor and its connection to other aspects of our life.


Park, Peterson, and Seligman (2004) defined humor as liking to laugh and tease; bringing smiles to other people; seeing the light side; making (not necessarily telling) jokes.
The sense of humor manifests in many ways, such as mockery, ridicule, sarcasm, irony, parody, puns, stand-up comedy, practical jokes, etc. Humor can also be involuntary when a sudden situation (like the old ‘slipping on a banana’ trope) generates laughter.


Martin et al. (2003) have observed four main styles of humor. They are derived from two dimensions:
✔️ the use of humor to enhance one’s relationships with others or with one’s self: so we have interpersonal or intrapersonal styles of humor
✔️its effect: humor can create a benign relationship or a malign relationship. The model is illustrated below, with its two dimensions and four resulting humor styles.

styles of humor


Before diving into explaining them, there are a few more ideas I’d like to share with you. Firstly, one’s style of humor is usually established based on their results in a standardized questionnaire. For the sake of this article, I will provide a short description of each style so you can ascertain what type of humor you have.

Secondly, one can have a mix of two or more styles of humor – and it’s understandable. We are complex beings who change our behavior according to the context.

And thirdly, the information below is derived from international research articles and show general connections between humor and other personality traits. This might or might not be true for you, so keep that in mind while reading the descriptions.

Affiliative Humor

It refers to the kind of funny, non-offensive jokes that one tells when going out with friends.  This type of humor serves as a way to liven the atmosphere. The person with an affiliative sense of humor might have a leadership spirit, being the one who always has fun ideas to share. Sometimes, they can also show superiority tendencies. This type of humor is more present in people who live in collectivist cultures, such as Japan, China, Venezuela, Guatemala, Indonesia, Ecuador, Argentina, Brazil, and India. The affiliative sense of humor is more common among young people (under 25).

Self-deprecating Humor

Persons who allow others to make jokes at their expense have this type of humor. They often turn themselves into the group clown to be accepted by the others. This tendency shows a low level of self-esteem. The person doesn’t see themselves as worthy of friendship, so they’d do anything just to be accepted, thus damaging their self-image even more. The person often displays a cynical view of human nature.

Aggressive Humor

This type of humor manifests as crude, sexist and racist jokes that aim to hurt the other person’s feelings, bordering on bullying. The person who uses this style of humor has psychopathic and neurotic tendencies. This style also correlates with narcissistic traits, such as perceived superiority over others and the tendency to exploit them.

Self-enhancing Humor

A person with this style is capable of identifying the humorous aspects, even in the most stressful situations. This is a valuable defense mechanism that helps individuals to evade the dire reality. Army doctors and holocaust survivors are only a few examples of people who use self-enhancing humor.

Self-enhancing humor can also manifest in a person who nearly escapes a fatal car accident. When the paramedics ask how they feel, they might say something like ‘I’m fine. I didn’t like that car anyway.’ and let out a bitter laugh. While this reaction might seem out of place, it actually helps the person keep his mental equilibrium instead of collapsing.

Now that you know a bit more about your sense of humor, you can pay attention to what makes you laugh and why. The humor styles can change, so you can educate yourself in the direction that will benefit your mental health and others. And remember – have fun as much as you can!


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