Can people really “laugh at themselves?”–experimental and correlational evidence.
“Laughing at oneself is considered a core component of the sense of humor in the theories of several authors. In McGhee’s (1996) eight-step-training program of the sense of humor, laughing at oneself constitutes one of the most difficult levels. However, until now, only little empirical evidence on laughing at oneself exists. Using a multimethod approach, in the current study, 70 psychology students and a total of 126 peers filled in the Sense of Humor Scale (SHS, McGhee, 1996), containing as a subscale “Laughing at oneself”. In addition, the participants answered the Trait and State forms of the State-Trait-Cheerfulness-Inventory (STCI, Ruch, Köhler, & van Thriel, 1996; Ruch, Köhler, & van Thriel, 1997). They then were confronted with six distorted images of themselves. Facial responses of the participants were videotaped and analyzed using the Facial Action Coding System (FACS, Ekman, Friesen, & Hager, 2002). Four indicators of exhilaration were examined: (a) experienced funniness, (b) AU12 smiles, (c) Duchenne displays, and (d) laughter. Furthermore, fake and masking smiles were studied. Results demonstrated that self- and peer reports of “laughing at oneself” converged moderately. All four indicators of exhilaration were shown, but funniness and laughter seemed to be the most strongly related indicators. Trait cheerfulness and (low) seriousness, and a cheerful mood state formed further characteristics of persons who laugh at themselves.”
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