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date: 25 September 2020

Summary and Keywords

Effective humor enactment has been proven to be beneficial to both senders and receivers of the communication. Use of humor in social interaction has the potential to elicit positive perceptions, improve interpersonal interactions, reduce conflict, aid in coping, and even facilitate health outcomes. In contrast, poorly communicated, ill-timed, or maladaptive humor is often detrimental to both personal perceptions and relationships. Specific factors regarding these bidirectional outcomes are examined in this article.

Humorous enactments are inherently a goal-oriented form of communication that involves social, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral elements. The individual intends to accomplish some goal through communicating humor, no matter how obscure or subconscious the act might seem. Hence the communicator encodes verbal and/or nonverbal messages to achieve this aim. By comparison, genuine responses to humor (whether a trait pattern or situationally immediate) are not goal-oriented, but rather spontaneous reactions to humorous messages. Therefore, laughter, snickering, and the like may be authentic, unguarded amusement responses.

Research and discussion of interpersonal humor entail several foundational premises which must be addressed: productive and unproductive forms of humor, differences between source and receiver approaches, interactional versus presentational perspectives, varying functions and outcomes of humor across different stages of relationship development and decline, as well as attention to some less-often studied contexts. The application of theoretical frameworks such as Incongruity, Instructional Humor Processing, Superiority, Dispositional, and Benign Violations theories help guide our predictions and explanations of humorous messages.

Keywords: humor enactment, humor orientation, humor styles, stages of relationships, humor theories, humor and coping, humor and conflict

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