Differential effects of self-esteem and interpersonal competence on humor styles

Psychol Res Behav Manag. 2012;5:143-50. doi: 10.2147/PRBM.S36967. Epub 2012 Nov 26.


Background: In contrast with an early implicit "facilitative hypothesis" of humor, a revised specificity hypothesis predicts that the benefits of humor depend on the specific style of humor used. Information on predictors of these humor styles in turn enhances the ability to predict the effect on well-being.

Methods: We examined the relationships between interpersonal competence, self-esteem, and different styles of humor, while also examining the contributions of age and gender. Participants (n = 201) aged 18-63 years completed the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Inventory, the Interpersonal Competence Questionnaire, and the Humor Styles Questionnaire, and gave demographic information.

Results: High self-esteem was associated with higher use of affiliative, aggressive, and self-enhancing humor styles, but lower use of self-defeating humor. High interpersonal competence predicted greater use of affiliative humor, whereas low interpersonal competence predicted greater use of aggressive humor. Further analyses showed that initiation competence predicted affiliative humor (positively) but both initiation competence (positively) and conflict management competence (negatively) predicted aggressive humor.

Conclusion: The findings that both self-esteem and initiation competence contribute to use of aggressive humor add to knowledge of who is likely to use this potentially harmful humor style. We conclude that a readiness to initiate humorous interactions is not on its own a general and positive attribute contributing to "good" humor.

Keywords: differential effects; humor styles; interpersonal competence; self-esteem.