Humour styles, personality and psychological well-being: What’s humour got to do with it?

Willibald Friedrich Ruch, Sonja Heintz


The Humor Styles Questionnaire (HSQ) by Martin et al. (2003) measures four humour styles, namely affiliative, self-enhancing, aggressive and self-defeating. In contrast to former humour instruments, the HSQ has strong relations to various measures of psychological well-being. However, its incremental validity in relation to basic personality traits has not been sufficiently studied. Two studies analysed how much unique variance the HSQ contributed to predicting psychological well-being over and above personality. While the affiliative, self-enhancing and self-defeating humour style were potent predictors of well-being in Study 1, the results also indicated that these humour styles had small effects when personality was controlled for. Study 2 tested a possible explanation for these findings, namely that the context (i.e., non-humorous components) of the HSQ items dominates their humour-specific content. Two questionnaires were utilised to separate context and humour components in the HSQ. Results showed that (a) the HSQ contributed little in predicting personality and psychological well-being once context was controlled for, and that (b) the humour component of each HSQ scale correlated highly with other humour instruments and neither of them were detrimental or maladaptive in terms of psychological well-being. Thus, these two studies showed a low incremental validity of humour styles in predicting psychological well-being beyond personality and hint to a limited role that humour plays in the these relationships. Overall, the humour components of the HSQ rather resemble those of other self-report measures and mainly comprise humour appreciation and humour production in everyday life.


HSQ; Humour Styles; Incremental Validity; Personality; Psychological Well-Being

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