Humor in advertisements enhances product liking by mere association

J Exp Psychol Appl. 2009 Mar;15(1):35-45. doi: 10.1037/a0014812.


Humor in advertising is known to enhance product liking, but this attitude change is often considered nonpredictive of product choice. Previous research relied exclusively on explicit self-report measures to assess attitudes and purchase intentions. The present research shows that unobtrusive association of a product with humor can affect persuasion through implicit attitude change. Participants viewed humorous and nonhumorous cartoons in a mock-up magazine. One of two products was consistently presented in the vicinity of the humorous cartoons, whereas the other product was consistently presented in the vicinity of the nonhumorous cartoons. The results of an evaluative priming task showed enhanced evaluations of products paired with humor (Experiment 1, 2, and 3). Furthermore, these enhanced evaluations mediated the relation between association with humor and product choice (Experiment 2 and 3). Paradoxically, products paired with humor were also less recognized than the control products (Experiments 2 and 3). In summary, the present research demonstrates that mere association with humor enhances product evaluations and product choice in a way that is dissociated from the accessibility of the product in memory.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Advertising*
  • Association*
  • Attitude*
  • Choice Behavior
  • Decision Making*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intention
  • Male
  • Persuasive Communication
  • Wit and Humor as Topic*
  • Young Adult