What's so funny? An evaluation of the relations among humour use, mirth, and depressive symptomatology
MetadataShow full item record
Humour production and showing mirth (i.e., smiling and laughing) confer prosocial advantages. However, there is a paucity of literature evaluating how humour manifests in psychopathology. Humour and mirth may be especially relevant in depression, wherein profound impairments are evident in emotional and social functioning. Chapters 2 and 3 present correlational and predictive relations of depressive, social anxiety, and social anhedonia symptoms with humour styles, and consider the role of motivational systems and expressivity of positive affect as they relate to humour. As expected, symptoms and avoidance-based motivation were positively related to maladaptive humour styles and negatively related to adaptive humour styles. Interestingly, the pattern of relations shifted when considered among individuals in a depressive episode; acutely depressed individuals generally shy away from any humour style rather than gravitating toward specific styles. In a mediation model, the inverse relation between depressive symptoms and affiliative humour was fully mediated by approach-based motivation and expressivity of positive emotions. Chapters 4 and 5 examined subjective and observed mirth responses (facial affect and laughter) demonstrated by depressed and healthy comparison groups. Relative to non-depressed individuals, depressed persons reported less enjoyment, lower ratings of funniness, and fewer instances and shorter durations of positive facial affect and laughter when viewing humourous videos. There was no significant change in retrospective ratings of enjoyment and funniness at a one-week follow-up. The pattern of responsivity by depressed persons shifted when they viewed humourous videos while hearing others laughing. Both groups demonstrated more mirth when hearing others laugh; there were no differences between groups on mirthful behaviours. The one exception was that the total duration of laugher produced by depressed individuals was shorter than that produced by individuals in the healthy comparison group. This research project demonstrates that facets of depressive symptomatology are differentially associated with humour use and depressed individuals show blunted emotional responsivity to humourous stimuli. However, the pattern of reduced affective responsivity is context specific in that it fluctuates in response to hearing others’ laughter. These findings have important implications for the conceptualization of depression and the subsequent avenues for the treatment of individuals with depression.