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Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 2010, Vol. 99, No. 4, 660 – 682 © 2010 American Psychological Association 0022-3514/10/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/a0019627
A Joke Is Just a Joke (Except When It Isn’t): Cavalier Humor Beliefs Facilitate the Expression of Group Dominance Motives
University of Victoria
Cara C. MacInnis
Past research reveals preferences for disparaging humor directed toward disliked others. The group-dominance model of humor appreciation introduces the hypothesis that beyond initial outgroup attitudes, social dominance motives predict favorable reactions toward jokes targeting low-status outgroups through a subtle hierarchy-enhancing legitimizing myth: cavalier humor beliefs (CHB). CHB characterizes a lighthearted, less serious, uncritical, and nonchalant approach toward humor that dismisses potential harm to others. As expected, CHB incorporates both positive (affiliative) and negative (aggressive) humor functions that together mask biases, correlating positively with prejudices and prejudice-correlates (including social dominance orientation [SDO]; Study 1). Across 3 studies in Canada, SDO and CHB predicted favorable reactions toward jokes disparaging Mexicans (low-status outgroup). Neither individual difference predicted neutral (nonintergroup) joke reactions, despite the jokes being equally amusing and more inoffensive overall. In Study 2, joke content targeting Mexicans, Americans (high-status outgroup), and Canadians (high-status ingroup) was systematically controlled. Although Canadians preferred jokes labeled as anti-American overall, an underlying subtle pattern emerged at the individual-difference level: Only those higher in SDO appreciated those jokes labeled as anti-Mexican (reflecting social dominance motives). In all studies, SDO predicted favorable reactions toward low-status outgroup jokes almost entirely through heightened CHB, a subtle yet potent legitimatizing myth that “justifies” expressions of group dominance motives. In Study 3, a pretest–posttest design revealed the implications of this justification process: CHB contributes to trivializing outgroup jokes as inoffensive (harmless), subsequently contributing to postjoke prejudice. The implications for humor in intergroup contexts are considered. Keywords: social dominance, cavalier humor beliefs, disparaging humor, group status
You know the world is going crazy when the best rapper is a White guy, the best golfer is a Black guy, the tallest guy in the NBA is Chinese, the Swiss hold the America’s Cup, France is accusing the U.S. of arrogance, [and] Germany doesn’t want to go to war.” —Chris Rock
Humor and joke telling remain among the last bastions of openly expressed intergroup stereotypes and bias in Western cultures. Stand-up comedians and political cartoonists openly express and “play with” socially sensitive intergroup topics, as in the opening quotation. Despite backlashes against the strongest forms of intergroup humor, such as Michael Richard’s anti-Black outbursts on stage (“Richards Says Anger, not Racism, Sparked Tirade,” 2006), people generally tolerate intergroup jokes, minimizing negative outcomes
Gordon Hodson and Cara C. MacInnis, Department of Psychology, Brock University, St. Catherine, Ontario, Canada; Jonathan Rush, Department of Psychology, University of Victoria, Greater Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. This research was funded by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council grant to Gordon Hodson. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Gordon Hodson, Department of Psychology, Brock University, St. Catharine, Ontario L2S 3A1, Canada. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org 660
associated with humor generally. In an American survey, over 50% agreed that “People are too sensitive about ethnic jokes nowadays— these jokes are just meant to be funny, not to offend people” (see Jaret, 1999). Likewise, only 18% of people generally (and 39% of working women) consider off-color sexual jokes harassment (Terpstra & Baker, 1987). Presumably, few would consider Chris Rock’s joke truly offensive. Rather, “humor invokes a conversational rule of levity” (Ford, Boxer, Armstrong, & Edel, 2008, p. 160), encouraging audiences to disengage criticism and relax normal social conventions, quelling criticism of the joke or the teller (Ferguson & Ford, 2008). In fact, indicating displeasure with an intergroup joke could even come at a social cost, conveying prudishness or a failure to appreciate an implicit understanding that a “joke is just a joke” and, by implication, harmless. In the present article, we consider how social dominance motives operate in intergroup humor contexts. How might defending jokes as mere jokes, as opposed to meaningful and impactful social communications, facilitate the expression of social dominance motives?
Social Dominance Theory (SDT)
In SDT (Pratto, Sidanius, & Levin, 2006; Sidanius & Pratto, 1999), it is proposed that human societies almost universally adopt hierarchical power structures. As a result, access to resources and
A JOKE IS JUST A JOKE: CAVALIER HUMOR BELIEFS
power are distributed unequally across social groups. Over time, relative advantages and disadvantages become entrenched and further differentiate social groups, making it increasingly difficult for subordinates to change their social status and to access valued resources or prestige. Subordinates often enable the oppression system by endorsing and supporting inequality to either maintain psychological order and stability or avoid direct social harm (see also Jackman, 1994). For their part, dominants are particularly invested in endorsing ideologies justifying the attainment or maintenance of structural intergroup relations conferring unequal benefits to high-status groups. This often results in heightened outgroup prejudice, particularly directed toward low-status outgroups seeking upward social mobility (Duckitt, 2006). SDT is a broad theory incorporating sociological, structural, and individual processes. Social dominance orientation (SDO; Pratto, Sidanius, Stallworth, & Malle, 1994) represents a “theoretical tool” (Pratto et al., 1994, p. 287) for exploring the implications of intergroup dominance within individuals. Those relatively higher in SDO endorse intergroup inequality and favor hierarchical societal structures, disavowing the importance of group equality. SDO characterizes “motivational goals of group power, dominance, and superiority over others” (Duckitt, 2006, p. 685; see also Cozzolino & Snyder, 2008; Duckitt, 2005), with high-scorers motivated to attain hierarchy-enhancing social positions (Haley & Sidanius, 2005; Pratto et al., 1994). Increases in SDO are associated with a range of anti-outgroup biases (Altemeyer, 1998; Sidanius & Pratto, 1999), particularly toward low-status outgroups (Duckitt, 2006), consistent with SDT. Whereas SDO reflects concerns with intergroup dominance and competition, right-wing authoritarianism (RWA; Altemeyer, 1996, 1998) concerns motivations for security and order (Duckitt, 2005, 2006). Increases in RWA are associated with submission, conventionality, and aggression against others as sanctioned by leaders. Individuals higher in RWA demonstrate prejudice against multiple outgroups (Altemeyer, 1996, 1998), especially those threatening social order and values (Duckitt, 2006). Together SDO and RWA explain up to 50% of prejudice variance (Altemeyer, 1998), marking these constructs as particularly relevant individual-difference predictors of bias (Hodson & Esses, 2005). Although modestly correlated, SDO and RWA possess unique motivational underpinnings (Duckitt, 2005) that may operate differentially in humor contexts. RWA originates from conforming personality styles and danger-focused worldviews, whereas SDO originates from tough-minded personalities, sensitivity to inequality and dominance concerns, and competition-focused worldviews. SDO is rooted in “dark personalities” such as Machiavellianism and psychopathy (Hodson, Hogg, & MacInnis, 2009), making those higher in SDO relatively mean and cruel (Altemeyer, 1998). Unlike those higher in RWA, those with increased SDO also value the pursuit of hedonism and stimulation (Duriez & Van Hiel, 2002). These differences play out at the group level: Those higher in RWA are relatively ingroup-focused, concerned with social order in one’s immediate circle, whereas those higher in SDO are relatively intergroup-focused, being particularly concerned with prestige, power hierarchies, and access to resources between groups (Ekehammar, Akrami, Gyle, & Zakrisson, 2004; Pratto et al., 1994). Given these distinct underpinnings and motivational concerns, SDO and RWA frequently predict attitudes toward outgroups independently (e.g., Hodson & Costello, 2007; Hodson et
al., 2009) and may independently relate to outgroup-disparaging humor appreciation. Being relatively mean, hedonistic, and especially dominance oriented, those higher in SDO (vs. RWA) are expected to approve of outgroup-disparaging humor (see also Thomas & Esses, 2004), with SDT serving as our principal organizational framework. We include RWA in Studies 1–2 to allow comparisons between dominance and security and conformity motivations in intergroup humor contexts.
The Release of Negative Intergroup Motives
Central to SDT is the proposition that “group-based hierarchy is also affected by . . . legitimizing myths . . . [the] attitudes, values, beliefs, stereotypes that provide moral and intellectual justification for the social practices that distribute social value” (Sidanius & Pratto, 1999, p. 45). Hierarchy-enhancing legitimizing myths represent psychological processes linking support for intergroup dominance with the endorsement of attitudes and policies keeping low-status groups in place. Although SDT typically emphasizes broad and generalized legitimizing myths (e.g., racism, sexism, Protestant work ethic), narrower and more specific beliefs also mediate SDO-prejudice relations, including perceived inevitability and justifiability of prejudice (Esses & Hodson, 2006), intergroup threat (Hodson et al., 2009), and outgroup dehumanization (Costello & Hodson, 2010; Hodson & Costello, 2007). Such hierarchy-enhancing myths are considered potent to the extent that they explain the relation between social dominance motives and expressed bias (Sidanius & Pratto, 1999). Little is presently known about how language and communication function as legitimizing myths (Pratto et al., 2006). To date, most legitimizing myths identified are relatively overt, so their expressions risk the appearance of negativity and personal bias. Although such expressions might justify negative intergroup relations among those with similar ideologies, these mechanisms may not mask dominance motives to others generally. That is, because overt displays of prejudice and discrimination in Western cultures have markedly declined (Dovidio & Gaertner, 2004; Gaertner & Dovidio, 1986), coinciding with an increased societal value on egalitarianism (Schuman, Steeh, Bobo, & Krysan, 1997), currently identified legitimizing myths conflict with these societal standards. Sorely absent from the field is an understanding of how communicative processes (e.g., humor) operate to legitimize prejudice expressions in subtle ways. Legitimizing myths are presumably chosen not only for their ability to facilitate dominance motives but also with an eye to justifying or disguising this intent. We seek to uncover a subtle legitimizing myth operating in intergroup humor settings. Prejudice-release theories provide insights into the general form that such a mediating process might take. The aversive racism framework (Dovidio & Gaertner, 2004; Gaertner & Dovidio, 1986) posits that consciously held egalitarian ideals often contradict unconscious negative affect toward outgroups. Outward expressions of such negativity typically require justification, with bias “leaks” common when their expressions can be explained away. For instance, intergroup biases emerge under ambiguous settings, as when university applicants possess both positive and negative qualifications, when biases can be rationalized along nonintergroup grounds (e.g., qualifications, not group membership), preserving a relatively nonprejudiced self-image (Hodson, Dovidio, & Gaertner, 2002; Saucier, Miller, & Doucet,
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2005; see also Hodson, Hooper, Dovidio, & Gaertner, 2005). As outwardly playful communications that can appear inconsequential on the surface, jokes and/or their intentions are frequently ambiguous, making humor contexts rich settings for the study of subtle bias expression. The justification-suppression model of prejudice (Crandall & Eshleman, 2003) similarly emphasizes the routine inhibition of prejudices, with intergroup biases presented as motivational drives requiring regular suppression like other motives. Someone endorsing a group dominance motive, for instance, would not continually express dominance but rather select opportune moments. Intergroup biases purportedly emerge when such expressions are socially sanctioned, normative, legitimized, or justified, consistent with SDT. Factors justifying prejudice expressions are considered energy liberators, accompanied by positive affect and relief. A link between the release of bias and positive affect points to a potential association between the appreciation of (outgroup) humor and bias expressions. To the extent that group-dominance motives are routinely held in check, joke telling and humor appreciation can provide outlets for their release. From this perspective, mediating processes such as legitimizing myths function best when relatively justifiable. Consistent with this reasoning, aggressive jokes are considered funnier when the aggression is deemed justifiable (Gallois & Callan, 1985). Ferguson and Ford (2008, p. 305) also noted that “It is possible that disparagement humor serves as a releaser of suppressed prejudice.” We propose that humor contexts provide psychological cover for those harboring social dominance motives, but only to the extent that an appropriate legitimizing myth is communicated. To contemplate the specific properties of such a mediator in humor contexts, we turn to the humor literature.
Social Functions of Humor
Theorists have long recognized that humor and joke telling can serve personal goals harming others. Freud (1905/1960) argued that humor allows expressions of hostility toward others through socially sanctioned forms, masking true intentions from source and audience (including the target). Although Freud proposed that humor can avert (vs. promote) other forms of hostility through catharsis, this position lacks support (see Ferguson & Ford, 2008; Martin, 2007). Rather, those expressing overt or covert aggression toward others appreciate hostile humor (e.g., Byrne, 1956). Men who are hostile toward women, for instance, appreciate sexist humor (Ford, Wentzel, & Lorion, 2001; Ford et al., 2008; Greenwood & Isbell, 2002; Ryan & Kanjorksi, 1998; Thomas & Esses, 2004). Not surprisingly, several superiority-based theories of humor emphasize the importance of negative outgroup attitudes in predicting positive reactions to outgroup-disparaging jokes (e.g., La Fave, 1972; Zillman & Cantor, 1976).1 In other words, people take pleasure in jokes disparaging disliked others. Other humor theorists have emphasized the socially positive, disinhibiting functions of joke telling. Martin (2007) argued that “humor is essentially a way for people to interact in a playful manner” (p. 5), a liberation from serious constraints of everyday life. Intergroup jokes, however, walk the line between being simply playful and serving negative intergroup objectives. As such, “ethnic humour appears to be an ideal tool for the study of some of the more subtle, pernicious, and sensitive aspects of intergroup behaviour” (Bourhis, Gadfield, Giles, & Tajfel, 1977, p. 264).
Indeed, others have speculated that intergroup humor may permit social behavior that “does not count” as evidence of intergroup bias (Sev’er & Ungar, 1997), may serve as “disclaimers” for prejudice (Maio, Olson, & Bush, 1997), or may release prejudice (Bill & Naus, 1992). Most of this theorizing is predicated on the positive social value associated with holding a good sense of humor, with the intergroup implications relatively unexplored. Humor orientations can maximally facilitate dominance motives to the extent that advocating a good sense of humor holds positive social value. Humor appreciation may serve evolutionary functions by signaling intelligence and social adroitness that thereby reflect desirable genes to potential mates (Tisljar & Bereczkei, 2005). A recent large-scale Internet survey on romantic partner preferences revealed that only intelligence rivaled a good sense of humor, outranking even honesty, kindness, and physical attractiveness (Lippa, 2007). Asserting that one is nonserious and playful with humor represents a positive and socially valued position, perhaps even a core cultural value (Apte, 1987). In nonhumorous intergroup contexts, values (e.g., work ethic) can be defended in ways that mask prejudices and perpetuate inequalities (Kinder & Sears, 1981). Valuing carefree humor expressions might serve similar purposes. Humor may also be an adaptive communicative signal that all is okay in the immediate social environment. In his false alarm theory, Ramachandran (1998) argued that the “main purpose of laughter is for the individual to alert others in the social group . . . that [an] anomaly detected by that individual is of trivial consequence” (p. 352), with a joke representing “an attempt to trivialize what would otherwise be genuinely disturbing anomalies” (p. 353). Laughter may therefore communicate the absence of danger or threat to the ingroup, signaling to others that action to address (or redress) environmental anomalies is unnecessary. We suggest that people in Western cultures regularly face an incongruity: the coexistence of blatant intergroup inequalities on the one hand and societal prescription for norms favoring equality on the other. Cavalier and dismissive humor orientations may therefore justify maintenance of the status quo by trivializing intergroup-based communications that can oppress others.
Humor in Intergroup Contexts
Although telling disparaging humor contributes to negative stereotypes and attitudes toward joke targets (e.g., Hobden & Olson, 1994; Maio et al., 1997), negative attitudes typically do not follow from exposure to such humor. For instance, Olson, Maio, and Hobden (1999) found no evidence of negative stereotypes or attitudes following joke exposure across three studies. Similarly, Ford and colleagues (2001) found no increased negativity following sexist-joke exposure, even among sexist men. Many in the field therefore conclude that disparaging joke exposure is relatively less harmful than might be initially expected. We suggest that past researchers have underestimated the effects of disparaging joke exposure on reactions toward the joke target. From an SDT perspective, status of the joke target is particularly relevant. Olson and colleagues (1999), noting that their null findAlthough these theories make distinct predictions, they each assert that people enjoy humor targeting disliked outgroups.
A JOKE IS JUST A JOKE: CAVALIER HUMOR BELIEFS
ings involved exposure to jokes only targeting high-status outgroups (e.g., men, lawyers), speculated that exposure to humor targeting low-status joke targets might promote bias. We therefore adopt an SDT framework that emphasizes structural relations between national groups that differ in power and influence. Just as humor appreciation can signal within-group social hierarchies (Tisljar & Bereczkei, 2005), appreciation of outgroup humor can recognize and maintain intergroup social hierarchies, particularly among those with social dominance motives. How might humor operate in such intergroup contexts? A psychological process capable of releasing social dominance motives and explaining SDO-based appreciation of disparaging outgroup humor would optimally minimize and trivialize the social costs of humor generally. Although humor reactions may legitimately communicate the triviality of social contexts, prompting others toward inaction and conserving energy and resources (Ramachandran, 1998), this communication strategy can be co-opted for other purposes, such as legitimizing inaction that serves group dominance goals. Trivializing the impact of outgroup humor could therefore serve to maintain the status quo favoring dominants. Ford and colleagues’ (Ford et al., 2008; Ford & Ferguson, 2004) prejudiced norm theory of disparaging humor clearly outlines the dangers of adopting nonserious mindsets in intergroup humor contexts. In their research, participants are exposed to sexist humor before evaluating an unrelated scenario describing discrimination against a particular woman or group of women. Upon exposure to sexist humor, sexist men become more accepting of subsequent discrimination scenarios and report less self-directed negative affect when imagining sex-based discrimination they might commit (Ford et al., 2001). Sexist men exposed to sexist humor also donate less to women’s groups, perceiving their actions as normative (Ford et al., 2008). Ford and colleagues (Ford et al., 2008) suggested that among sexist individuals, exposure to humorous stimuli engages a nonserious mindset that promotes a norm of tolerance toward sexism. By treating stimuli as harmless jokes, people temporarily become less critical, making them more accepting of negativity implicitly underlying the earlier presented humor. The approach adopted by Ford and colleagues (2001, 2008; Ford & Ferguson, 2004) focuses on how individuals holding negative outgroup attitudes (i.e., sexist men) become less critical following joke exposure and how this influences behavior or attitudes in unrelated nonhumor contexts. We diverge from their approach in several regards. We consider individual differences in the importance of cavalier humor beliefs (CHB) generally. These beliefs, we argue, can function as hierarchy-enhancing legitimizing myths that facilitate intergroup motive expression. Whereas Ford and colleagues (Ford et al., 2008; Ford & Ferguson, 2004; Ford et al., 2001) emphasize that humor creates transient nonserious mindsets among prejudiced people in a relatively passive manner, we are interested in how the defense of laid-back approaches toward humor explains why those with social dominance motives appreciate outgroup-disparaging humor. We suggest that CHB beliefs may strategically relate to particular targets of humor, especially low-status outgroups. In keeping with aversive racism theory, those invested in expressing intergroup bias can rationalize such expressions as positive (because humor is important and valued) while dismissing negativity (i.e., potentially negative outcomes for others).
Joke tellers report little correspondence between their jokes and personal attitudes (Johnson, 1990), providing indirect evidence that jokes are considered just jokes, not to be taken seriously or as indices of personal bias. We developed an individual-difference measure (see Appendix A) tapping the general belief that a joke is just a joke. These CHBs capture a lighthearted, less serious, uncritical, and nonchalant mindset toward humor generally. Theoretically, those higher in CHB are unconcerned about the social consequences of joke telling, believing instead that people should lighten up and avoid reading meaning into jokes. By stressing the positive value of humor and casually disregarding negative outcomes from jokes, CHBs may serve as legitimizing myths releasing dominance motives. Individual differences in CHB are expected to correlate not only with humor processes but with basic personality factors and intergroup processes. Martin and colleagues (Martin, Puhlik-Doris, Larsen, Gray, & Weir, 2003) have proposed several functions of humor: affiliative (nonhostile, tolerant, bonding), aggressive (manipulative, offensive, critical), self-defeating (self-deprecating, ingratiating), and self-enhancing (psychological resiliency and coping). Given their laid-back and dismissive approach to humor, those higher in CHB likely use humor for both affiliative (positive) and aggressive (negative) reasons, making it well positioned to rationalize dominance expressions and mask underlying intentions. Temperamental factors underlying a good sense of humor have also been identified: being cheerful, being nonserious, and holding positive moods (Ruch, Kohler, & Van Thriel, 1996). Increased CHB is expected to pertain most directly to (low) seriousness (i.e., high playfulness) as a mindset. In serving ideological functions, CHB should not necessarily relate to basic temperament or positive mood (i.e., the simple enjoyment of humor). In terms of broader personality traits, those higher in CHB are expected to be outgoing and extraverted (from valuing humor), less friendly and agreeable (from not caring about social harm emanating from jokes), less disciplined and organized (from being less serious), less anxious and neurotic (from treating social life lightly), and more open to experiences (from being cavalier, not rigid or conventional). To the extent that CHB fosters negative intergroup relations, and is not simply a laid-back philosophy, increased CHB was expected to correlate (a) positively with prejudices and SDO, (b) negatively with tolerant inclusive ideologies (e.g., universal orientation [UO]), and (c) negatively with rigid cognitive styles related to prejudice. Increased CHB should also correlate negatively with internal (personal) reasons to control bias (Plant & Devine, 1998). That is, those higher in CHB presumably consider egalitarianism an unimportant self-standard, disregarding negative outcomes to others from humor. It was less clear whether CHB would relate to external prejudice-control motivations (i.e., control to avoid sanctions and/or disapproval). Although some high in CHB might consider social sanctions relevant punishments to avoid, others may simply enjoy carefree jokes without fear of public sanction, being genuinely cavalier. We forward no prediction on the direction of this relation. CHB is not expected to covary with RWA. Although those higher in either CHB or RWA are predicted to be more prejudiced, authoritarians are also religious, respectful, and fearful about
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moral and societal decay, perceiving themselves as good people (Altemeyer, 1998). Their biases stem more from motives for conventionality and routine than maliciousness (Hodson et al., 2009). Although those higher in RWA dislike outgroups and might be expected to appreciate outgroup humor (Maio et al., 1997), they avoid hedonism (Duriez & Van Hiel, 2002) and presumably disapprove of disparaging jokes generally. In support of this reasoning, RWA was previously unrelated to sexist joke appreciation (Thomas & Esses, 2004). The CHB scale deliberately makes no reference to ethnic or sexual groups. Although prejudiced and socially dominant individuals are expected to score higher in CHB, higher CHB scores would not necessarily indicate prejudice or social dominance on their own (i.e., without additional evidence). This feature makes it suitable for endorsement by those with a casual orientation toward humor and by those seeking to avoid appearance of prejudice or social dominance motivation. The cultural positivity and value associated with humor can presumably be co-opted and used by those invested in justifying group-based dominance, providing cover for expressions of dominance.
that people appreciate humor disparaging disliked groups (e.g., Ford et al., 2001, 2008; Greenwood & Isbell, 2002; La Fave, 1972; Ryan & Kanjorksi, 1998; Thomas & Esses, 2004; Zillman & Cantor, 1976). As noted by Davies (1990), however, appreciation of outgroup-disparaging humor involves more than simple outgroup dislike: “opprobrious scripts are often pinned down on ethnic groups toward whom the joke tellers do not feel hostile, while other situations of intense intergroup resentment or even open ethnic conflict fail to produce any ethnic jokes at all” (p. 8). Within an SDT framework we explore group-dominance motives as an additional basis for the appreciation of outgroup jokes, statistically controlling outgroup attitudes in tests of our model.
In relation to other humor constructs, CHB was expected to correlate positively with aggressive and affiliative functions of humor and negatively with serious humor temperament. In the Big Five personality space, CHB was expected to correlate positively with extraversion and openness and negatively with agreeableness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism. CHB was expected to correlate positively with SDO (not RWA) and intergroup prejudices and negatively with tolerant ideologies, the need for personal structure, and internal motivations for controlling prejudice. In predicting joke reactions, SDO was expected to predict favorability toward Mexican (vs. neutral) jokes, reflecting preference for disparaging-outgroup humor targeting a lower status group. Those higher in SDO not only value hedonism, predicting joke amusement, but are relatively mean and callous toward others, suggesting they will consider such jokes inconsequential. Those higher in SDO (vs. RWA) are expected therefore to seek opportunities to express social dominance motives in keeping with the justification-suppression model. Rather than simply being benign and merely advocating a lighthearted approach to humor, heightened CHB was hypothesized to serve intergroup functions, predicting favorable reactions toward low-status (Mexican) disparaging jokes but not neutral jokes. CHB was expected to positively predict amusement ratings (a joke’s hedonistic value) by emphasizing that a joke is just a joke and therefore gratifying. CHB was also expected to positively predict inoffensiveness ratings (a joke’s lack of social harm) by emphasizing that a joke is just a joke and nothing insidious. If CHB predicts anti-Mexican jokes but not equally amusing nonintergroup jokes, this would indicate that heightened CHB serves intergroup functions, not simply humor appreciation generally. Finally we propose a group-dominance model of humor appreciation, in which the hypothesized positive relation between increased SDO and favorable reactions to Mexican-disparaging jokes is explained by elevated CHB endorsement as a hierarchyenhancing legitimizing myth (see hypothesized model in Figure 1).
2 In contrast, heterosexual male–female relationships can be characterized by ambivalence driven by positive (e.g., love, lust) and negative (e.g., disdain) feelings toward an outgroup with whom one experiences intimate contact (see Glick & Fiske, 1996). International relations are less codependent and intimate in nature.
Study 1 was designed with two key goals in mind: (a) Determine the factor structure and validity of the CHB scale, and (b) test CHB as a hierarchy-enhancing legitimizing myth explaining associations between SDO and appreciation of humor belittling a lower status outgroup. Two types of humor reaction are considered. Amusement reflects the extent to which joke stimuli are considered enjoyable, reflecting the hedonistic (positive affect) value of humor communications. Perceived joke funniness and repeatability of jokes (see Thomas & Esses, 2004) serve as indices of amusement. Inoffensiveness ratings, in contrast, concern a statement of harm (or rather, lack thereof). This reaction represents a cognitive assessment that a particular humor stimulus is socially harmless and therefore not detrimental. Declaring jokes inoffensive is particularly pernicious to intergroup relations because it rationalizes further negative outgroup treatment, an assumption directly tested in Study 3. After all, humor norms dismissing the seriousness of outcomes can fuel discrimination (Ford et al., 2001, 2008). Amusement (hedonistic) and inoffensiveness (harm) ratings are therefore distinct, both conceptually and empirically (Thomas & Esses, 2004), and both reactions are considered in the present investigation. Because high SDO men have previously found sexist jokes inoffensive but not more amusing (Thomas & Esses, 2004), we decided to expose participants to international jokes of an ethnic nature that presumably appeal to those higher in SDO. Canadians higher in SDO were expected to consider jokes targeting Mexicans, a lower status outgroup, both inoffensive and more amusing given their mean nature (Altemeyer, 1998; Hodson et al., 2009); their desire to reduce outgroup competitiveness (Duckitt, 2006; Esses, Jackson, Dovidio, & Hodson, 2005); and their social, geographic, and ethnic distance from this lower status outgroup.2 Our approach emphasizes intergroup structural relations, focusing on power, status, and dominance, beyond the appreciation of humor directed toward already disliked targets. Numerous theoretical positions and research findings have previously established
A JOKE IS JUST A JOKE: CAVALIER HUMOR BELIEFS
Group-dominance model of humor appreciation.
Participants. Undergraduate psychology students at a Canadian university participated for course credit. One Mexican participant was omitted from analyses, leaving 135 participants (48 men, 87 women, Mage 19.43 years, SD 2.20). Participants were predominantly White and Caucasian (98.5%), and Canadian (97.8%). Materials and procedures. Prejudice-relevant individual-difference measures. SDO was assessed with the 16-item SDO scale (Pratto et al., 1994). A sample item reads, “Superior groups should dominate inferior groups” (from 1 do not agree at all to 7 strongly agree). Using the same anchors, we assessed RWA with 12 items from Altemeyer’s (1996) scale; a sample item reads, “Our country will be destroyed someday if we do not smash the perversions eating away at our moral fiber and traditional beliefs.” The 11-item Personal Need for Structure (Neuberg & Newsom, 1993) Scale was administered; a sample item reads, “I find that a constant routine enables me to enjoy life more” (from 3 do not agree at all to 3 strongly agree). Also used was the 20-item UO Scale (Phillips & Ziller, 1997); a sample item reads, “At one level of thinking we are all of a kind” (from 1 does not describe me well to 5 describes me well; .62). Participants completed the Internal Motivation to Respond Without Prejudice Scale (IMS; e.g., “I attempt to act in nonprejudiced ways toward Black people because it is personally important to me”) and the External Motivation to Respond Without Prejudice scale (EMS; e.g., “I try to hide any negative thoughts about Black people in order to avoid negative reactions from others”) on 9-point scales (Plant & Devine, 1998). Prejudice measures. Participants completed the seven-item Modern Racism Scale (MRS: McConahay, Hardee, & Batts, 1981) assessing attitudes toward Blacks. A sample item reads: “Blacks are getting too demanding in their push for equal rights” (from 0 strongly disagree to 4 strongly agree). Participants indicated
attitudes toward Mexicans using a widely used attitude thermometer (from 0 extremely unfavorable to 100 extremely favorable), reverse scored, with higher scores reflecting more prejudice. Broad personality factors. The 44-item Big Five Inventory (BFI; John, Donahue, & Kentle, 1991) assessed the following factors on 5-point scales: Extraversion (sociable, outgoing), Agreeableness (kind, cooperative), Conscientiousness (organized, precise), Neuroticism (anxious, high-strung), and Openness to Experience (intellectual, innovative). Humor-relevant individual differences. Personal functions of humor were assessed via the Humor Styles Questionnaire (HSQ; Martin et al., 2003). Participants rated 32 statements on 7-point rating scales across four subscales: Affiliative Humor (e.g., “I enjoy making people laugh”), Self-Enhancing Humor (e.g., “My humorous outlook on life keeps me from getting overly upset or depressed about things”), Aggressive Humor (e.g., “If I don’t like someone, I often use humor or teasing to put them down”), and Self-Defeating Humor (e.g., “I will often get carried away in putting myself down if it makes my family or friends laugh”). The trait version of the 30-item State–Trait Cheerfulness Inventory (Ruch et al., 1996) was administered, tapping tendencies to experience cheerfulness (e.g., “I am a cheerful person”), seriousness (or low playfulness, e.g., “In most situations, I initially see the serious aspect”), and bad mood (e.g., “I often feel despondent”) on 4-point scales. CHB Scale. We initially generated 15 items measuring the tendency to view joke telling and humor in a noncritical, lighthearted, nonchalant manner. Sample items include, “Sometimes people need to relax and realize that a joke is just a joke,” and “Society needs to lighten up about jokes and humor generally.” Participants indicated agreement along 7-point scales (from 1 strongly disagree to 7 strongly agree); after reverse coding, higher scores indicate beliefs that jokes should not be taken seriously or evaluated critically. As noted in subsequent analyses, the items were refined to a six-item scale (Appendix A).
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Joke exposure and joke reactions. Participants were exposed to four jokes (see Appendix B), providing joke reactions immediately after each joke. The first joke was neutral in terms of intergroup relations (“A man went for a meal at a chicken restaurant. He asked the manager, ‘How do you prepare the chickens?’ The manager said, ‘We just tell them straight out that they’re going to die”). The other three jokes were disparaging to Mexicans (e.g., “What’s the first thing a Mexican girl does when she wakes up? Walks home”). Immediately following each joke, participants rated the joke’s funniness, offensiveness, and repeatability (see Thomas & Esses, 2004). Joke funniness and repeatability ratings were highly correlated (neutral joke r .76; Mexican jokes r .86), as in past research (rs .78 –.88 in Thomas & Esses, 2004) and were averaged into a joke amusement variable. Joke inoffensiveness was treated as a separate variable, being conceptually distinct (emphasizing social harm and consequences, not mirth and pleasure) and statistically less related to joke funniness and repeatability for neutral (rs .17, ps .052) or Mexican jokes (rs .09, ps .344). Mexican joke reactions demonstrated adequate reliability (amusement .87; offensiveness .86). Offensiveness scores were reverse scored into inoffensiveness ratings so that higher scores on both joke reaction variables indicate more favorable reactions to the joke.
Results and Discussion
Overview of analysis strategy. We first refine the CHB scale and examine the construct’s structure via confirmatory factor analysis (CFA). Scale properties (e.g., reliability, distribution shape) are considered, followed by examinations of CHB associations with humor-related constructs, broad personality factors, and prejudice-relevant variables. Next, we examine the predictors of joke reactions (amusement, inoffensiveness) toward neutral and Mexican-disparaging jokes. Finally, we explore a structural equation model (SEM) of the group-dominance model of humor appreciation, with SDO exerting influence on outgroup joke reac-
tions indirectly via CHB. Bootstrapping analyses are conducted to test the significance of indirect effects. CHB Scale refinement and construct validity. First we considered the corrected item-total correlations of the generated scale items. Three weak items (rs .25) were dropped. Of the remaining items, the six demonstrating the clearest face validity and strongest total-score correlations were selected (see Appendix A). These items were subjected to a CFA in AMOS 17. According to recognized fit criteria (Hu & Bentler, 1999; Kline, 2005), strong fit between data and model would be indicated by the following: nonsignificant chi-square test, 2/df 2, comparative fit index (CFI) .95, root-mean-square-error of approximation (RMSEA) .08, and standard root-mean-squared residual (SRMR) .08. A single-factor solution was supported, 2(9, N 135) 16.64, p .055, 2/df 1.85, CFI .979, RMSEA .080, SRMR .038. The items were highly intercorrelated (mean r .52), with a strong Cronbach’s alpha ( .86). The scale was normally distributed, with a mean around the midpoint (for additional details see Appendix A). We next consider correlations between CHB and related humor constructs. As revealed in Table 1, CHBs correlated positively with several HSQ subscales (Affiliation, Aggression, and SelfEnhancement) and negatively with State–Trait Cheerfulness Inventory—Seriousness, as expected. The CHB Scale taps ideologically relevant beliefs about the social functions of humor, not a general positivity bias or lightheartedness. Regressing CHB onto the four HSQ-subscales revealed significant, unique prediction by HSQ-Affiliation ( .17, p .046) and HSQ-Aggression ( .45, p .001). Heightened CHB scores are most clearly associated with social bonding, social control, and personal advancement functions of humor. A similar analysis regressing CHB onto the State–Trait Cheerfulness Inventory subscales revealed no unique subscale prediction ( s .15, ps .094). Within the Big Five personality space, those higher in CHB were more extraverted, less agreeable, and less conscientious and
Table 1 Correlations Between CHB Scale, Related Humor Scales, and Major Personality Factors (Study 1)
Variable 1. CHB HSQ subscales 2. Affiliation 3. Self-enhancing 4. Aggression 5. Self-defeating STCI subscales 6. Cheerfulness 7. Seriousness 8. Bad Mood Big Five factors 9. Extraversion 10. Agreeableness 11. Conscientiousness 12. Neuroticism 13. Openness 1 .86 2 .32 .83 3 .17 .38 .80 4 .49 .30 .06 .67 5 .05 .22 .20 .14 .78 6 .09 .54 .49 .11 .14 .85 7 .17 .33 .16 .39 .03 .12 .73 8 .14 .34 .45 .07 .15 .70 .21 .88 9 .18 .36 .26 .12 .02 .56 .07 .41 .85 10 .31 .08 .15 .39 .12 .38 .15 .35 .07 .78 11 .32 .11 .20 .43 .04 .13 .49 .13 .28 .28 .81 12 .11 .18 .33 .10 .30 .34 .14 .69 .29 .27 .09 .83 13 .03 .26 .31 .27 .01 .15 .19 .15 .03 .19 .12 .14 .74
Note. N 135. Values in diagonal represent alpha coefficients. HSQ cavalier humor beliefs. p .05. p .01. p .001.
Humor Styles Questionnaire; STCI
State–Trait Cheerfulness Inventory; CHB
A JOKE IS JUST A JOKE: CAVALIER HUMOR BELIEFS
disciplined (see Table 1). Unexpectedly, CHB was unrelated to openness to experience or neuroticism. Regressing CHB onto all five personality factors resulted in significant prediction by Extraversion ( .26, p .002), Agreeableness ( .28, p .001), and Conscientiousness ( .33, p .001). Relations between CHB and intergroup-relevant variables. As expected, those higher in CHB scored higher in SDO and anti-Black prejudice and lower in need for structure, UO, and internal motivations to respond without prejudice ( ps .009; see Table 2). CHB was statistically unassociated with RWA or external motives for responding without prejudice. In a follow-up analysis, CHB was regressed onto the prejudice-relevant individual differences, revealing unique prediction for SDO ( .27, p .004), Personal Need for Structure ( .22, p .003), UO ( .16, p .031), and internal motivations to control prejudice ( .37, p .001). Thus, those higher in CHB endorse group hierarchies, resist routine and structure, deemphasize and devalue similarities between people, and consider the control of prejudice for personal reasons unimportant. The CHB Scale therefore demonstrated significant relations with several important intergroup variables, despite making no reference to group processes or groups.3 Scoring relatively high in CHB does not simply reflect a lighthearted approach to humor, contrary to its surface appearance. Predicting reactions to jokes. Mixed-linear models in SPSS 17 were used to examine tests of Individual Difference (meancentered SDO or CHB) Joke Type (neutral or Mexican) Reaction (amusement vs. inoffensiveness), with the latter two factors repeated measures. This regression-based procedure provides not only omnibus tests of main effects and interactions (e.g., SDO Joke Type) but tests of specific slopes (e.g., SDO relations with Mexican joke amusement ratings) statistically controlling for other within-participant responses on repeated measure factors (e.g., SDO relations with Mexican joke inoffensiveness ratings and neutral joke ratings of both types). As a result, the unstandardized beta weights reported indicate pure effects of the targeted relation purged of influence from other related joke ratings, maximizing the ability to use participants as their own statistical control. In addition, we generated predicted mean values of responses at 1 and 1 SD on the individual-difference variables, testing the significance of predicted mean differences with dummy coding procedures (see West, Aiken, & Krull, 1996), further facilitating the decomposition of interaction effects. In the interest of brevity, only higher order effects of theoretical importance are discussed.4 An SDO (centered) Joke Type (neutral vs. Mexican) Reaction (amusement vs. inoffensiveness) interaction test revealed a significant Joke Type Reaction interaction, F(1, 399) 99.79, p .001. Collapsing across individual differences, participants overall considered the neutral joke equally (M 3.88) amusing as Mexican jokes (M 3.88), t(399) 1, ns. The neutral joke was considered more inoffensive (M 8.01) than Mexican jokes (M 4.75), t(399) 14.11, p .001. Of greater theoretical importance, however, a predicted SDO Joke Type interaction also emerged, F(1, 399) 17.63, p .001. This interaction pattern is unpacked in Table 3. As expected, those higher (vs. lower) in SDO considered the disparaging Mexican jokes significantly more amusing and more inoffensive (i.e., harmless), indicated by significant slopes (unstandardized betas) in these columns. Recall that these analyses remove variance from the other-repeated measure ratings; therefore, those higher in SDO
found Mexican jokes inoffensive (or amusing) not only beyond the other Mexican joke rating, but also after controlling for reactions to the neutral jokes (i.e., baseline humor reactions within individuals). Amusement reactions to jokes were driven by those both low and high in SDO (see Table 3 row subscripts): Those high in SDO considered Mexican jokes significantly more amusing than neutral jokes, whereas those low in SDO considered Mexican jokes significantly less amusing than neutral jokes. Both those low in SDO and those high in SDO considered Mexican (vs. neutral) jokes less inoffensive, but as reflected by the significant slope, those higher in SDO considered Mexican jokes more inoffensive than did those lower in SDO. In contrast, SDO failed to significantly predict reactions (amusement or inoffensiveness) toward the neutral (nonintergroup) jokes, as expected. As reflected by the significant SDO Joke Type reaction, relations between SDO and Mexican joke reactions were significantly stronger than were relations between SDO and neutral joke reactions. The SDO Joke Type pattern was equivalent across ratings of amusement and inoffensiveness, evidenced by a failed three-way interaction, F(1, 399) 1, ns. A similar CHB (centered) Joke Type Reaction interaction test revealed a predicted CHB Joke Type interaction, F(1, 399) 28.19, p .001, decomposed in Table 3. Those relatively higher (vs. lower) in CHB rated Mexican jokes as more amusing and more inoffensive. Tests of the predicted means reveal that high CHBs rated Mexican (vs. neutral) jokes as significantly more amusing, whereas low CHBs rated Mexican (vs. neutral) jokes as significantly less amusing. Both low and high CHB individuals considered Mexican (vs. neutral) jokes less inoffensive. In contrast, those higher (vs. lower) in CHB did not consider the neutral joke significantly more appealing. The significant CHB Joke Type interaction demonstrates that CHB relations with Mexican jokes are significantly stronger than those with neutral jokes, and the failed three-way interaction, F(1, 399) 1, ns, reveals this pattern to be equivalent across amusement and inoffensiveness ratings. As anticipated, CHB is systematically relevant to intergroup (vs. neutral) humor. Relatively benign on the surface, this individual difference predicts enjoyment of disparaging outgroup jokes but not neutral (nonintergroup) jokes, despite these joke types being equally amusing to the sample overall. This pattern reflects a level of sensitivity toward humor disparaging a lowstatus outgroup that would not surface if CHB simply emphasized the importance of enjoying humor. Anti-Mexican prejudice also positively predicted inoffensiveness ratings of Mexican (but not neutral) jokes (see Table 3). As expected RWA did not predict reactions to disparaging outgroup (or neutral) jokes (see Thomas & Esses, 2004). UO was negatively related with Mexican joke reactions, as predicted. Unexpectedly,
3 Although CHB correlated strongly with HSQ-aggressiveness (see Table 1), CHB better predicted intergroup variables. For instance, SDO correlated with CHB after controlling for HSQ-aggression (rp .33, p .001), but HSQ-aggression did not correlate with SDO after removing CHB (rp .13, p .126). Likewise, CHB correlated with anti-Black prejudice after controlling for HSQ-aggression (rp .40, p .001), but HSQaggression did not predict after controlling for CHB (rp .01, p .894). 4 Gordon Hodson can be contacted for additional details.
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Table 2 Correlations Between CHB, Prejudice-Relevant Individual Differences, and Modern Prejudice (Study 1)
Variable 1. CHB Individual differences 2. SDO 3. RWA 4. PNS 5. UO 6. IMS 7. EMS Modern prejudice 8. MRS 1 .86 2 .43 .91 3 .00 .38 .84 4 .22 .15 .31 .82 5 .31 .34 .21 .14 .77 6 .56 .53 .11 .07 .31 .62 7 .03 .25 .07 .14 .09 .02 .78 8 .44 .66 .31 .09 .24 .52 .17† .85
Note. N 135. SDO social dominance orientation; RWA right-wing authoritarianism; PNS personal need for structure; MRS Modern Racism Scale; UO universal orientation; IMS and EMS internal and external motivations to control prejudice; CHB cavalier humor beliefs. † p .051. p .05. p .01. p .001.
personal need for structure was negatively correlated with Mexican joke amusement. Overall, social dominance motives, CHB, and anti-outgroup prejudices consistently predicted increasingly favorable reactions toward disparaging outgroup jokes; in contrast, individual differences emphasizing conformity, structure needs, and tolerance did not. Overall, individual differences (aside from UO) generally did not predict neutral joke reactions. The group-dominance model of humor appreciation. Recall that CHB was expected to mediate relations between SDO and the appreciation of jokes disparaging a low-status outgroup. The proposed model was directly tested in an SEM with AMOS 17 software, allowing tests of mediation that simultaneously examine requirements of mediation (Baron & Kenny, 1986; Shrout & Bolger, 2002). Because SDO and Mexican prejudice were each associated with positive joke reactions (see Table 3), these variables were treated as correlated exogenous variables, with the influence of each variable on endogenous variables considered. Statistical significance of mediated effects was based on bootstrapping methods (n 1,000) with maximum likelihood procedures. Missing data ( 1%) were replaced with sample means. All possible paths were initially included in a fully saturated model (df 0) to estimate total, direct, and indirect effects and associated p values (Taylor, MacKinnon, & Tein, 2008). Nonsignificant paths were dropped in subsequent tests of model fit. The model tested in Figure 2 demonstrated strong fit to the data, 2(4, N 135) 2.01, p .734, 2/df .50, CFI 1.000, RMSEA .000, SRMR .031.5 As expected, SDO uniquely predicted CHB ( .43), which in turn uniquely predicted both increased joke amusement ( .55) and joke inoffensiveness ( .40). As predicted, SDO demonstrated significant and independent indirect effects on joke amusement and inoffensiveness through CHB ( ps .01; see Table 4 for effects decomposition). In fact, the influence of SDO on joke reactions operated entirely indirectly through CHB, accounting for 80%–100% of these relations (see Table 4). Direct effects of SDO on joke reactions in the model were small and nonsignificant, despite significant SDO-joke reaction associations in Table 3. CHB fully mediated relations between SDO and joke reactions, such that increased SDO would not predict jokes reactions if not for CHB as a mediating process. Summary. We introduced a humor belief measure that can account for why socially dominant individuals appreciate dispar-
aging outgroup humor. The CHB scale demonstrated sound structural properties and internal consistency in addition to convergent validity. Those higher in CHB endorse joke telling for both positive (affiliation) and negative (aggressive) social purposes. As expected, increases in CHB were associated with personality factors reflecting social outgoingness, unfriendliness, and lower rigidity and discipline. Those higher in CHB were higher in intolerant ideologies (SDO), were lower in tolerant ideologies (UO), and claimed less rigid cognitive styles (Personal Need for Structure), greater prejudices, and lower personal motivations to control prejudices. A cavalier approach to humor clearly involves social functions linked to ideological thinking in ways relevant to the release of social dominance motives. Of prime interest, CHB (and SDO) predicted positive reactions to disparaging Mexican (vs. neutral) jokes, even though these jokes were not considered more amusing or inoffensive by the sample overall. The proposed SEM (see Figure 2) supported the assertion that SDO predicts favorable reactions to disparaging outgroup jokes indirectly through CHB (see Table 4). CHB represents a potent legitimizing myth explaining the relation between groupbased hierarchy motives and reactions that belittle and disempower an outgroup (Sidanius & Pratto, 1999).
There were multiple goals for Study 2. First, we sought to replicate the hypothesized mediation model (see Figure 1) supported in Study 1, a rare but critical step in SEM (Kline, 2005). Second, we examined how social dominance motives influence the appreciation of humor disparaging groups differing in status. In Study 2, Canadian participants were exposed to neutral jokes and jokes targeting Mexicans (i.e., low-status outgroup) as in Study 1 and to jokes targeting Americans (i.e., high-status outgroup) and Canadians (i.e., high-status ingroup). To the extent that CHB facilitates the expression of group-dominance motives, CHB was expected to strongly predict favorable reactions toward disparaging jokes targeting low-status outgroups relative to jokes targeting high-status outgroups or the ingroup.
5 In each study, an alternative model specifying the reverse pattern of association was examined, but the proposed model consistently demonstrated better fit. Details are available from Gordon Hodson upon request.
A JOKE IS JUST A JOKE: CAVALIER HUMOR BELIEFS
Table 3 Prejudice-Relevant Individual Differences and CHBs as Predictors of Joke Reactions (Study 1)
Amusing Neutral Variable SDO RWA PNS Mexican prej UO CHB SE .17 .18 .19 .01 .49 .14 ML 4.02a 4.07a 4.11a 3.74a 3.50a 3.66a MH 3.70a 3.68a 3.61a 4.01a 4.25a 4.09a b 0.14 0.19 0.17 0.01 1.08 0.19 Disparaging Mexican ML 3.30b 3.72b 4.32a 3.57a 4.21b 2.80b MH 4.42b 4.04a 3.43a 4.19a 3.55b 4.94b b 0.57 0.15 0.49 0.02 0.96† 0.94 ML 8.12a 8.19a 8.11a 7.87a 7.94a 7.89a Neutral MH 7.92a 7.84a 7.93a 8.16a 8.09a 8.14a b 0.10 0.18 0.08 0.01 0.22 0.11 Inoffensive Disparaging Mexican ML 4.19b 4.57b 4.71b 4.05b 5.52b 3.76b MH 5.35b 4.93b 4.77b 5.44b 3.97b 5.68b b 0.54 0.20 0.03 0.04 2.22 0.85
Note. N 135. Unstandardized betas reported. Comparable joke reactions variables on the same row (e.g., amusing) with different subscripts differ at p .05. SDO social dominance orientation; RWA right-wing authoritarianism; PNS personal need for structure; Mexican prej Mexican prejudice; UO universal orientation; CHB cavalier humor beliefs; ML and MH predicted values at 1/ 1 SD on individual difference; SE standard error. † p .054. p .05. p .01. p .001.
In Study 2 we introduced a degree of experimental control rarely exercised in the humor literature (e.g., Thomas & Esses, 2004; for exceptions, see Bourhis et al., 1977; Gallois & Callan, 1985). In Study 1, we cannot rule out the possibility that unknown characteristics of the disparaging Mexican (vs. neutral) jokes (e.g., complexity, cultural familiarity, joke length, structural properties) resulted in more favorable reactions by those higher in Mexican prejudice, SDO, or CHB. This is unlikely because Mexican and neutral jokes were considered equally amusing overall, but this potential confound requires elimination. The methodology in Study 2 systematically controls group labels assigned to jokes, rotating labels designated to each joke. Thus, any particular joke disparaged Mexicans for a third of the sample, disparaged Americans for another third, and disparaged Canadians for another third. This methodology not only rules out unknown joke characteristics potentially underlying joke reactions but also enables clearer conclusions about the hypothesized model in Figure 1. If participants find particular group jokes appealing with this methodology (i.e., as a function of a particular outgroup label, not the jokes per se), we can be assured that intergroup processes are responsible, not
joke properties. If those higher in CHB or SDO particularly appreciate Mexican (vs. American or Canadian) jokes, they will do so because the jokes disparage this particular group.
Based on our theoretical rationale and Study 1 results, we expected SDO to predict favorable reactions toward disparaging Mexican jokes. In contrast, SDO was not expected to predict the appreciation of Canadian jokes because favorable reactions here would be inconsistent with expressing dominance motives. It was less clear how social dominance motives expressed at the individual level would relate to the appreciation of American jokes. Although Americans represent a competitive outgroup in this context, Americans are a dominant high-status group of the nature typically unopposed by those higher in SDO (see Duckitt, 2006). This outgroup was included for purposes of comparison. As in Study 1, RWA was not expected to predict joke reactions. In keeping with Study 1, CHB was expected to predict to reactions toward humor targeting outgroups (particularly of lowstatus) relative to neutral jokes. To the extent that CHB facilitates expressions of negative outgroup-directed motives, heightened CHB was expected to maximally predict favorable reactions toward Mexican (low-status outgroup) jokes, followed by American (high-status outgroup) jokes, followed by Canadian (ingroup) jokes. In this regard, our analysis makes a novel prediction about intergroup humor processes. That is, because the CHB scale makes no group references, CHB was expected to correlate somewhat with appreciation of ingroup-targeting jokes. After all, taking a joke is important to a good sense of humor (Apte, 1987). If CHB predicts favorable reactions to both ingroup- and outgrouptargeting jokes, the CHB construct would be well-positioned to serve as a rationalizing variable (i.e., “I laugh at ingroup jokes, so my appreciation of outgroup-derogating humor does not reflect personal bias”). The extent to which CHB differentially predicts outgroup humor appreciation versus ingroup humor appreciation, however, would signal its sensitivity to intergroup power relations, consistent with its anticipated role in serving group-dominance functions.
Figure 2. Structural equation model test of group-dominance model of humor appreciation (Study 1). 2(4, N 135) 2.01, p .734, 2/df .50. Comparative fit index 1.000; root-mean-square error of approximation .000; standard root-mean-squared residual .031. p .01. p .001.
HODSON, RUSH, AND MACINNIS
Table 4 Decomposing the Group-Dominance Model of Humor Appreciation: Effects of SDO and CHBs on Disparaging Humor Ratings (Studies 1–2 & Study 3 Experimental Participants)
Total effect Criterion SDO predictor CHB Amusing Inoffensive CHB predictor Amusing Inoffensive Study 1 .42 .27 .17 .51 .41 Study 2 .21 .24 .12 .49 .33 Study 3 .42 .26 .25 .26 .48 Study 1 .42 .05 .00 .46 .44 Direct effect Study 2 .21 .14 .05 .49 .33 Study 3 .42 .15 .05 .26 .48 — .22 .17 — — Study 1 Indirect effect Study 2 — .10 .07 — — Study 3 — .11 .20 — —
Note. Effects of Mexican prejudice on all path variables controlled. Amusing and inoffensive refer to Mexican joke ratings. Statistical significance of effects based on bootstrapping procedures (n 1,000). Study 1 n 135; Study 2 n 177; Study 3 represents the disparaging condition n 79. SDO social dominance orientation; CHB cavalier humor belief. p .05. p .01.
Finally, we test the group-dominance model of humor appreciation, with individual differences in SDO predicting favorable reactions toward jokes disparaging a low-status outgroup indirectly through increased CHB.
In a pilot study, we examined perceived status differentials between national groups. Canadian participants (n 103) at the same university ranked five countries (Jamaica, United States, Israel, Canada, Mexico) in terms of “power, influence, and status.” The United States ranked first (M 1.05, SD 0.33), followed by Canada (M 2.42, SD 0.67), with Mexico in fourth place (M 3.70, SD 0.75). All mean rankings differed significantly ( ps .001). Thus, America and Canada were considered high-status groups, with Mexico considered low status.
Participants. Undergraduate psychology students at a Canadian university participated for course credit. Americans (n 8) and Mexicans (n 3) were omitted from analyses, leaving 177 Canadians (39 men, 138 women, Mage 20.50 years, SD 6.07). Most participants were White and Caucasian (97.7%). Materials and procedures. Individual differences and intergroup attitudes. Participants completed SDO ( .88) and RWA ( .88) measures (see Study 1). The CHB scale was administered; subjecting its six items to a CFA supported a single factor, 2(9, N 177) 13.79, p .130, 2/df 1.53, CFI .983, RMSEA .055, SRMR .042. The scale demonstrated good reliability and normal distribution (see Appendix A). Thermometer attitude measures (0 –100) captured evaluations of Mexicans, Americans, and Canadians. Jokes and joke ratings. Participants were exposed to 22 jokes (18 group-disparaging, 4 neutral, see Appendix B). Disparaging jokes were selected to be generic enough that joke targets could be substituted with any national group (i.e., Mexican, American, Canadian). That is, any national group could be inserted with the joke maintaining integrity and meaning. To ensure that differences in joke reactions were due solely to the target of the joke, three separate questionnaire versions were created, with participants
randomly assigned to one version. Each version presented the identical jokes in the same order, switching the target of the disparaging jokes across questionnaire versions. Thus, jokes disparaging Canadians in Version 1 disparaged Americans in Version 2 and Mexicans in Version 3. Likewise, jokes disparaging Americans in Version 1 disparaged Mexicans in Version 2, disparaged Canadians in Version 3, and so on. As a result, each questionnaire version consisted of six jokes disparaging Mexicans, six jokes disparaging Americans, six jokes disparaging Canadians, and four neutral jokes. After each joke, participants rated its funniness, offensiveness (reverse scored), and repeatability. As in Study 1, funniness and repeatability measures were highly correlated (rs .78 –.96) and averaged into joke amusement indices for each joke target. Inoffensiveness ratings were relatively less correlated with funniness and repeatability (rs .01–.23) and were kept separate for statistical and conceptual reasons. Indices were computed on the following measures: (a) Mexican joke amusement (Version 1 .94, Version 2 .91, Version 3 .90) and inoffensiveness (Version 1 .86, Version 2 .91, Version 3 .87), (b) American joke amusement (Version 1 .93, Version 2 .89, Version 3 .85) and inoffensiveness (Version 1 .89, Version 2 .88, Version 3 .88), (c) Canadian joke amusement (Version 1 .88, Version 2 .91, Version 3 .86) and inoffensiveness (Version 1 .84, Version 2 .85, Version 3 .89), and (d) neutral joke amusement ( .82) and inoffensiveness ( .62). Finally, demographic information was collected, and participants were debriefed and thanked.
Results and Discussion
Overview of analysis strategy. We first explore the relations among SDO, RWA, and CHB. We then consider the moderation of joke reactions by individual differences. Then, the proposed effects of SDO on Mexican (low-status) joke reactions through CHB are tested in an SEM analysis, considering model fit indices and the significance of indirect effects (through bootstrapping analyses). Relations between individual differences. As in Study 1, CHB correlated significantly with SDO (r .26, p .001) but only marginally with RWA (r .13, p .080), despite SDO and RWA being correlated (r .32, p .001). As revealed in Table
A JOKE IS JUST A JOKE: CAVALIER HUMOR BELIEFS
5, RWA was again unrelated to joke reactions regarding any joke target, including neutral jokes. Across Studies 1 and 2, prejudicial orientations rooted in conventionality and submission to authority (RWA) were unrelated to humor processes, as expected. In the following analyses, we focus on SDO- and CHB-based relations to joke reactions. Predicting reactions to jokes. An SDO (centered) Joke Type (neutral vs. Mexican vs. American vs. Canadian) Reaction (amusement vs. inoffensiveness) interaction pattern was tested with mixed-linear analysis. A Joke Type Reaction interaction emerged, F(3, 1225) 66.93, p .001. American jokes (M 4.67) were significantly more amusing than were Mexican jokes (M 4.08), t(1225) 3.61, p .001, which did not differ from neutral jokes (M 4.00), t(1225) 1, ns. Canadian jokes (M 3.69) were considered significantly less amusing than were Mexican jokes, t(1225) 2.38, p .017, and marginally less amusing than were neutral jokes, t(1225) 1.88, p .060. Inoffensiveness ratings were greatest for neutral jokes (M 8.51), then American jokes (M 7.01), then Canadian jokes (M 6.58), then Mexican jokes (M 6.10), with all means differing significantly, ts(1225) 2.65, ps .009. Under global tests of the SDO Joke Type Reaction interaction, the predicted SDO Joke Type interaction emerged, F(3, 1225) 9.69, p .001. Because this interaction was not subsumed by a three-way interaction, F(3, 1225) 1, ns, the interaction pattern held for amusement and inoffensiveness ratings equivalently. As revealed in Table 5, SDO slopes were significant and positive for Mexican joke amusement and inoffensiveness ratings but not for neutral jokes, which were negative and nonsignificant. Recall that using these mixed-linear analyses, test of SDO slopes for Mexican jokes statistically control for ratings of American and Canadian jokes, making these pure tests of SDO-low status joke reactions. Individual differences in SDO were not
significantly related to American or Canadian joke ratings of either type. Consideration of predicted means revealed several interesting patterns. First, like Study 1, positive amusement ratings for Mexican (vs. neutral) jokes among those high in SDO was matched by a relative dislike of such jokes by those low in SDO (see row subscripts). Second, relations between SDO and American joke ratings were somewhat complex: Although individual differences in SDO did not predict American joke amusement (or inoffensiveness), those high in SDO ( 1 SD) considered American jokes as amusing as Mexican jokes. Those high in SDO therefore appreciated disparaging humor targeting both high- and low-status outgroups; those low in SDO ( 1 SD) clearly appreciated intergroup humor, but only for jokes targeting a high-status outgroup. What differentiated low and high SDO individuals, therefore, is appreciation of humor targeting a low-status outgroup, not a high-status outgroup. Similar tests of the CHB (centered) Joke Type Joke Reaction pattern revealed the expected CHB Joke Type interaction, F(3, 1225) 17.27, p .001, which was not subsumed by a three-way interaction including reaction, F(3, 1225) 1. Tests of slopes and predicted means in Table 5 support predictions. Specifically, CHB slopes were positive and significant in predicting amusement and inoffensiveness ratings for Mexican jokes but not for neutral jokes, replicating Study 1. As with SDO, high CHB was associated with increased amusement of Mexican (vs. neutral) jokes and low CHB was associated with lower amusement of such jokes. Put another way, the prediction by CHB is accounted for by variance among those low and high on the construct. As expected, CHB slopes were also significant and positive (but smaller) for ratings of American and Canadian jokes. Therefore, appreciation of low-status outgroup humor among those higher in CHB is accompanied by bemusement of ingroup-harming humor, consistent with our assertion that CHB rationalizes intergroup mirth
Table 5 Predictors of Joke Reactions (Study 2)
Disparaging jokes Neutral jokes Variable Amusing SDO RWA CHB Mexican American Canadian Inoffensive SDO RWA CHB Mexican American Canadian SE .14 .12 .13 .01 .01 .01 .14 .12 .13 .01 .01 .01 ML 4.15a 4.05a 3.81af 3.93af 3.97ae 4.09ad 8.55a 8.48a 8.50a 8.58a 8.63a 8.50a MH 3.85a 3.95ae 4.18a 4.06af 4.02ad 3.90ae 8.46a 8.53a 8.51a 8.43a 8.39a 8.52a b 0.17 0.05 0.19 0.00 0.00 0.01 0.05 0.02 0.01 0.00 0.01 0.00 Mexican low-status outgroup ML 3.53b 3.96a 3.08be 3.45be 3.92ad 4.32a 5.81b 5.95b 5.43b 5.83b 6.04b 6.01b MH 4.63bc 4.19ab 5.06b 4.71be 4.23a 3.83ad 6.39b 6.25b 6.77b 6.37b 6.17b 6.19b b 0.63 0.11 1.06 0.04 0.01 0.02 0.33 0.14 0.71 0.02 0.00 0.01 American high-status outgroup ML 4.58c 4.84b 4.04cf 4.32ac 4.49b 4.78b 7.00c 7.10c 6.60c 6.85c 6.75c 6.95c MH 4.75c 4.49b 5.29b 5.01ce 4.84b 4.55b 7.05c 6.91c 7.42c 7.17c 7.27c 7.07c b 0.10 0.16 0.67 0.02 0.01 0.01 0.05 0.09 0.43 0.01 0.01 0.00 Canadian high-status ingroup ML 3.61b 3.77a 3.25de 3.53def 3.60cde 3.67cd 6.65c 6.71c 6.18d 6.89c 6.69c 6.38b MH 3.77a 3.61cde 4.13a 3.85df 3.78cd 3.71cde 6.50b 6.45b 6.98b 6.27b 6.46b 6.78c b 0.09 0.07 0.47 0.01 0.00 0.00 0.09 0.12 0.43 0.02 0.01 0.01
Note. N 177. Unstandardized betas reported. Comparable joke reactions variables on same row (e.g., amusing) with different subscripts differ at p .05. SDO social dominance orientation; RWA right-wing authoritarianism; CHB cavalier humor beliefs; Mexican, American, and Canadian Mexican, American, or Canadian prejudice; ML and MH predicted values at 1/ 1 SD on individual difference; SE standard error. p .05. p .01. p .001.
HODSON, RUSH, AND MACINNIS
expression. Through their differential appreciation of intergroup humor, those higher in CHB can derive the following psychological cover: “I might be laughing at them, but I also laugh at us, so I’m not prejudiced.” Note, however, the clear bias in application of this appreciation, with CHB-based slopes very steep for Mexican jokes (see Table 5). As with SDO, those high ( 1 SD) in CHB rated American jokes as being as amusing as Mexican jokes, but rated Canadian jokes as significantly less amusing than either outgroup joke. The group-dominance model of humor appreciation. SEM tests of the group-dominance model of humor appreciation revealed support for predictions, 2(2, N 177) 1.77, p .413, 2 /df .88, CFI 1.000, RMSEA .000, SRMR .027 (see Figure 3). In keeping with Study 1, the effects of SDO on both Mexican joke amusement and inoffensiveness ratings operated indirectly through heightened CHB. In both cases, significant indirect effects of SDO on joke amusement and inoffensiveness through CHB accounted for 42%–58% of SDO effects on joke reactions (see Table 4). As in Study 1, these significant indirect effects of SDO on Mexican joke ratings operated when controlling for anti-Mexican attitudes. Unlike Study 1, a significant, direct, positive effect of SDO on amusement was also found. Overall, intergroup dominance motives predicted positivity toward negative intergroup humor largely through CHB, beyond simply disliking the joke target group. Summary. Individual differences (SDO, CHB) significantly moderated how participants responded to jokes as a function of the joke target. Although Canadians generally preferred American jokes, increases in SDO were associated with heightened appreciation of anti-Mexican jokes, servicing social dominance needs. This hidden pattern of bias against low-status targets would have gone undetected had SDO not been assessed. Yet SDO clearly predicted anti-Mexican joke reactions, doing so largely through CHB endorsement, masking overtly negative motives. Prejudice-relevant individual differences (except RWA) predicted only intergroup-targeting (vs. neutral) humor. Increases in SDO only predicted appreciation of jokes labeled as Mexican (not American or Canadian), even though experimental controls held the joke content and structure equivalent across participants. Therefore, those higher in SDO responded more positively to humor targeting Mexicans because the jokes targeted Mexicans. Those relatively higher (vs. lower) in SDO exposed to alternative joke packages (i.e., identical jokes targeting Americans or Canadians) did not consider these same jokes more appealing. This systematic control of joke characteristics, particularly in intergroup settings, is generally absent from the literature, and clarifies how prejudice-prone individuals react to offensive stimuli pertaining to outgroups. It is interesting that those high ( 1 SD) in SDO found Mexican and American jokes equally amusing. What differentiates low from high SDO individuals, therefore, is their appreciation of low-status humor, not high-status outgroup humor.6 CHBs covaried with intergroup concerns as anticipated, indicating more than a simple desire to casually enjoy humor. Replicating Study 1, increased CHB did not predict neutral joke reaction but did predict Mexican joke reactions, despite each joke type being equally amusing overall. Unique to this study, CHB correlated also with appreciation of high-status outgroup and ingroup jokes, but to a lesser extent. This differential prediction of grouptargeting jokes by CHB provides individuals endorsing the con-
struct with suitable cover in the face of intergroup bias concerns. The group-dominance model of humor appreciation was again supported (see Figure 3), even after statistically controlling outgroup attitudes.
Thus far, we have presented evidence that those higher in personal biases (SDO, anti-Mexican prejudices) consider disparaging Mexican (i.e., low-status) jokes favorably, in large part through treating humor in a cavalier manner. Might this process itself contribute to heightened prejudice toward the joke target? We address this question directly in the third study, tapping prejoke attitudes toward Mexicans, then measuring SDO and CHB. We then expose participants to disparaging outgroup jokes and obtain joke reactions, before finally reassessing postjoke group attitudes. If our model (see Figure 1) can be revised and extended to incorporate heightened outgroup prejudice as a final outcome, even after controlling for prejoke attitudes, this would indicate that CHB not only results from anti-outgroup prejudice and social dominance motives but contributes to outgroup prejudice. We are proposing a two-stage legitimizing myth mediation model, such that (a) CHB represents a generalized legitimizing myth explaining relations between SDO and positive reactions toward outgroup-disparaging jokes, and (b) joke reactions themselves represent context-specific legitimizing beliefs explaining relations between CHB endorsement and postjoke attitudes. As in Studies 1 and 2, we examined both joke amusement and inoffensiveness ratings. Recall that in Studies 1–2 each joke reaction was uniquely predicted by CHB. Although either of these reactions could subsequently generate negative attitudes toward the joke-targeted group, joke inoffensiveness represents the strongest candidate conceptually. As noted by Ford and colleagues (2001, 2008), dismissing the seriousness of an outcome in a humor setting can promote discrimination in supposedly unrelated settings. By judging disparaging jokes harmless, one effectively removes the sting from the joke, facilitating additional negative expressions toward that disparaged group. Amusement, on the other hand, represents a hedonistic value less suited to rationalizing additional prejudice because it risks the overt appearance of intergroup bias. One can therefore mask intergroup motives more effectively by casting a humor communication as harmless rather than as openly gratifying. Therefore, joke inoffensiveness was particularly expected to promote negative attitudes in line with aversive racism and justification suppression frameworks.
6 At present, there is little research demonstrating how those high in SDO respond to high-status outgroups. The unified instrumental model of group conflict (Esses et al., 2005) makes a general prediction that those with competitive ideologies (e.g., those higher in SDO) strive to reduce the competiveness of outgroups. Although this theory typically emphasizes low-status outgroups threatening the status quo, the present data suggest that those high in SDO also react negatively against high-status outgroups. Consistent with this finding, increases in SDO (but not RWA) among university students predict heightened prejudice toward professors, a highstatus outgroup (Hodson, Costello, & MacInnis, in press). Humor, therefore, might be one of the few tools available for removing the competitive edge of a high-status outgroup, and future research can further pursue this possibility.
A JOKE IS JUST A JOKE: CAVALIER HUMOR BELIEFS
Figure 3. Structural equation model test of group-dominance model of humor appreciation (Study 2) for jokes labeled Mexican. 2(2, N 177) 1.77, p .413, 2/df .884. Comparative fit index 1.000; root-meansquare error of approximation .000; standard root-mean-squared residual .027. p .05. p .01. p .001.
In Study 3, participants were randomly assigned to either a neutral-only joke exposure condition (nondisparaging condition) or a disparaging-plus-neutral joke exposure condition (disparaging condition) that mirrored Study 1. As in Studies 1–2, participants in the disparaging condition served as their own controls when evaluating systematic differences in reactions between joke types. This procedure allows the examination of intergroup joke reaction predictors controlling for an individual’s appreciation of nonintergroup humor. Increases in SDO were expected to contribute to negative outgroup attitudes (beyond initial attitudes), through heightened CHB; this process is most likely facilitated in contexts characterized by outgroup-disparaging humor.
Undergraduate psychology students at a Canadian university participated. Americans (n 8) and Mexicans (n 1) were omitted from analyses, leaving only Canadian participants (23 men, 141 women, Mage 20.55 years, SD 3.28).
Participants then completed measures of SDO ( .88) and CHB. A CFA on the CHB scale confirmed satisfactory fit to a single-factor model, 2(9, N 164) 10.80, p .290, 2/df 1.20, CFI .993, RMSEA .033, SRMR .037. The scale again demonstrated good reliability and normality (see Appendix A) and correlated positively with SDO (r .38, p .001) as expected. Participants in the nondisparaging condition then read and rated the same four neutral jokes from Study 2 (joke amusement .90; offensiveness .65), whereas those in the disparaging condition read and rated the jokes materials from Study 1 (1 neutral, 3 Mexican-disparaging; Mexican joke amusement .82, offensiveness .79).8 Joke stimuli are presented in Appendix B. Afterward, participants evaluated each of the original groups with attitude thermometers (written values from 0 to 100). Finally, participants provided demographic information and completed a suspicion check. No participants identified the hypotheses or declared suspicion.
Results and Discussion
Overview of analysis strategy. Our overall analysis strategy for Study 3 is to examine joke reactions and then examine intergroup attitudes, finally linking joke appreciation with ensuing intergroup attitudes. First, we consider how individual differences (SDO, CHB) relate to joke reactions as a function of experimental condition. Next, we consider the slopes and predicted means of SDO, CHB, and intergroup attitudes in relation to joke reactions within the key disparaging joke condition (paralleling the earlier studies). In the following section, we explore whether SDO effects
7 A photocopying error resulted in a 95 mm line, not a 100 mm line, so values were converted to percentages. 8 Joke funniness and repeatability were highly correlated in the disparaging condition (Mexican jokes r .81), compared with joke inoffensiveness (rs .19). Funniness and repeatability were averaged into a joke amusement variable.
Materials and Procedures
Because prejoke and postjoke attitudes were assessed within the same session, visual analogue rating scales were used to tap group attitudes at Time 1, and attitude thermometers were used at Time 2. These response formats are conceptually identical but procedurally distinct, avoiding suspicion and allowing participants to change attitudes in a subtle manner. First, participants rated Mexicans, Americans, and Canadians on visual analogue scales (from extremely unfavorable to extremely favorable; attitude ratings were then reverse keyed, with higher scores indicating more negative attitudes), placing a vertical mark on a 95 mm line indicating their attitude.7 The scale line was unbroken, with no labels or markers other than endpoints. Participants also rated attitudes toward the obese and homosexuals (low-status, nonnational groups) and toward a fictitious national group (Sandirians).
HODSON, RUSH, AND MACINNIS
on postjoke Mexican attitudes differ as a function of condition. Finally, we explore the group-dominance model of humor appreciation (see Figure 1), followed by a test of an extended two-stage model incorporating postjoke attitudes toward Mexicans as the outcome variable. Predicting reactions to jokes. The first set of analyses largely parallel those from Studies 1–2 but explore potential effects of condition. Mixed-linear analysis tested an SDO (centered) Condition (nondisparaging vs. disparaging) Joke Type (neutral vs. neutral and Mexican)9 Reaction (amusement vs. inoffensiveness) interaction pattern, with repeated measures on the last two factors. Although the SDO Condition Joke Type interaction was not significant, F(1, 480) 1.45, p .228, the predicted SDO Joke Type interaction was significant in the disparaging condition, F(1, 231) 13.96, p .001, but was not significant in the nondisparaging condition, F(1, 249) 2.40, p .123, as expected. The SDO Joke Type interaction patterns established in Studies 1–2 were therefore replicated, but only in the presence of disparaging humor. Similar tests of CHB Condition Joke Type Reaction revealed a significant CHB Condition Joke Type interaction, F(1, 480) 11.29, p .001. Unpacking this effect, a significant CHB Joke Type interaction emerged in the disparaging condition, F(1, 231) 12.00, p .001, but not the nondisparaging condition, F(1, 249) 1.02, p .313. These two-way interactions were not qualified by higher order interactions involving reaction. In conclusion, the individual differences moderated joke reactions, but only among participants exposed to both neutral and Mexican jokes, not those exposed only to neutral jokes (where there is no meaningful joke type factor, see Footnote 9). These effects are relatively unsurprising and of little theoretical interest. The nondisparaging condition is of little theoretical interest for our purposes and will be deemphasized in most subsequent analyses. Within the disparaging condition, a significant Joke Type Reaction interaction emerged, F(1, 231) 34.26, p .001. Collapsing across individual differences, Mexican (vs. neutral) jokes were considered significantly less amusing (M 3.44 vs. M 4.22, respectively), t(231) 2.79, p .006, and particularly less inoffensive (M 4.90 vs. M 7.99, respectively), t(231) 11.07, p .001. The predicted and significant SDO/CHB Joke Type interactions within the disparaging condition (reported above) are decomposed in Table 6. Confirming the results of Studies 1–2, both SDO and CHB were positively associated with Mexican joke reactions but not neutral joke reactions, in terms of both amusement and inoffensiveness ratings. As in the previous studies, relations between SDO or CHB and Mexican (intergroup) joke reactions statistically controlled for neutral joke reactions (i.e., baseline humor appreciation). The significant SDO Joke Type and CHB Joke Type interactions reveal significantly stronger associations between SDO or CHB and Mexican joke reactions than neutral joke reactions. Unlike Studies 1 and 2, these individual-difference effects appear predominantly the result of negative reactions to disparaging jokes by those low in SDO/CHB (see Table 6 row subscripts). Table 6 also presents associations between intergroup attitudes and joke reactions. Prejoke Mexican prejudice demonstrated a significant positive slope for Mexican (not neutral) joke amusement ratings, but not for Mexican joke inoffensiveness ratings. Therefore, those holding negative Mexican attitudes reacted with
positive affect toward Mexican-disparaging jokes but did not necessarily find them more inoffensive. Postjoke Mexican attitudes were related to both significantly higher Mexican joke amusement ratings and significantly higher Mexican joke inoffensiveness ratings. These implications of the relations between joke reactions and outgroup attitudes are further probed in tests of our humor model in forthcoming analyses. Impact of disparaging joke exposure and SDO on postjoke attitudes. SDO correlated with prejoke anti-Mexican attitudes in both the nondisparaging (r .36, p .001) and disparaging (r .35, p .001) conditions, as expected. Within the nondisparaging condition, however, a simultaneous regression predicting postjoke anti-Mexican attitudes revealed significant prediction only by prejoke attitudes ( .67, p .001), not SDO ( .09, p .265). In contrast, within the disparaging condition, a regression equation predicting postjoke attitudes revealed unique prediction by both prejoke anti-Mexican attitudes ( .58, p .001) and by SDO ( .22, p .017). In the context of disparaging humor stimuli, social dominance motives predicted more negative postjoke outgroup attitudes. Tests of an SDO Condition Mexican attitude (prejoke vs. postjoke) interaction with mixed linear analysis revealed no significant three-way interaction, F(2, 811) 1.30, p .273, suggesting that between group differences as a function of SDO are somewhat tenuous after accounting for initial group attitudes. However, SDO predicted postjoke attitudes in the disparaging condition after controlling initial attitudes, central to our purpose. Our individual-difference focused approach emphasized within-person effects among participants exposed to disparaging humor; fortunately, participants’ prejoke Mexican attitudes were assessed and are subsequently controlled in forthcoming model tests. This analytical strategy is akin to cases in which researchers have addressed the predictive power of individual differences within certain contexts or experimental conditions (e.g., Pratto, Tatar, & Conway-Lanz, 1999; Reynolds et al., 2007; Verkuyten & Hagendoorn, 1998). Group-dominance model of humor appreciation. For comparison with Studies 1–2, the original basic model (see Figure 1) was again tested and supported: 2(3, N 79) 2.31, p .511, 2 /df .77, CFI 1.000, RMSEA .000, SRMR .032. As reported in Table 4, SDO again exerted significant indirect effects on both joke amusement and inoffensiveness ratings through CHB ( ps .05), explaining between 42% and 80% of SDO-joke reaction relations. In contrast, SDO exerted no direct effects on joke reactions. Again, positive associations between SDO and joke appreciation (see Table 6) are explained by CHB endorsement. Our key contribution in Study 3, however, concerns the prediction of subsequent prejudices following these processes, identified in the next analyses. Extended group-dominance model of humor appreciation. In a test of an extended two-stage model (Taylor et al., 2008), we examined the effects of SDO on joke amusement and inoffensiveness through CHB and the effects of CHB on postjoke attitudes through joke amusement and inoffensiveness. Effects of prejoke
Here joke type is defined as neutral vs. neutral/Mexican, to indicate that in the nondisparaging condition, participants rated Joke 1 (neutral), followed by Jokes 2– 4 (neutral), but in the disparaging condition, participants rated Joke 1 (neutral), followed by Jokes 2– 4 (Mexican).
A JOKE IS JUST A JOKE: CAVALIER HUMOR BELIEFS
Table 6 Predictors of Joke Reactions (Study 3, Disparaging Condition)
Amusing Neutral Variable SDO CHB Prejoke prejudices Mexican American Canadian Sandirian Homosexual Obese Postjoke prejudices Mexican American Canadian Sandirian Homosexual Mexican SE .21 .23 .01 .01 .01 .01 .01 .01 .01 .01 .01 .01 .01 .01 ML 4.42a 4.37a 4.01a 3.83a 4.51a 4.56a 4.23a 3.78a 4.42a 4.24a 4.17a 4.71a 4.49a 4.14a MH 4.01a 4.07a 4.40a 4.56a 3.95a 3.92a 4.20a 4.60a 4.04a 4.20a 4.26a 3.86a 3.94a 4.27a b 0.23 0.15 0.01 0.02 0.02 0.02 0.00 0.02 0.01 0.00 0.00 0.02 0.01 0.00 Disparaging Mexican ML 2.90b 2.66b 2.70b 2.94b 3.57a 2.78b 3.18b 3.19a 2.94b 2.88b 3.57a 3.06b 3.37b 3.43a MH 3.98a 4.16a 4.10a 3.88a 3.30b 3.96a 3.75a 3.66b 3.86a 3.87a 3.31b 3.73a 3.51a 3.46b b 0.62 0.80 0.04 0.02 0.01 0.03 0.01 0.01 0.02 0.02 0.01 0.02 0.00 0.00 ML 8.09a 7.56a 7.68a 7.77a 7.91a 7.97a 7.62a 7.70a 7.65a 7.84a 8.10a 7.86a 7.83a 7.82a Neutral MH 7.88a 8.38a 8.26a 8.18a 8.06a 8.11a 8.43a 8.23a 8.27a 8.10a 7.87a 8.18a 8.14a 8.11a b 0.12 0.43 0.02 0.01 0.00 0.00 0.02 0.01 0.02 0.01 0.01 0.01 0.01 0.01 Inoffensive Disparaging Mexican ML 4.45b 3.90b 4.60b 5.10b 4.92b 4.38b 4.75b 4.61b 4.28b 4.78b 4.89b 4.38b 4.69b 4.53a MH 5.35b 5.83b 5.18b 4.72b 4.89b 5.48b 5.08b 5.16b 5.43b 4.99b 4.91b 5.43b 5.12b 5.16b b 0.52 1.02 0.01 0.01 0.00 0.03 0.01 0.01 0.03 0.00 0.00 0.03 0.01 0.01
Note. N 79. Unstandardized betas reported. Comparable joke reactions variables on same row (e.g., amusing) with different subscripts differ at p .05. SDO social dominance orientation; CHB cavalier humor beliefs; Homosexual anti-homosexual prejudice; ML and MH predicted values at 1/ 1 SD on individual difference; SE standard error. p .05. p .01. p .001.
attitudes on all variables were controlled. Although the model offered reasonable fit, the path from joke amusement to postjoke attitudes was not significant ( .03, p .748), whereas the path from inoffensiveness to postjoke attitudes was significant ( .19, p .024). (Similarly, at the zero-order level, correlations between inoffensiveness and postjoke attitudes, r .28, p .013, remain significant after removing variance from prejoke attitudes, rp .25, p .030, but the same is not true for joke amusement, r .26, p .019; rp .01, p .961). These results suggest that joke amusement ratings do not serve as legitimizing myths contributing to intergroup prejudice. In light of these findings and to maximize model parsimony, the model was simplified by dropping joke amusement and was reexamined. The two-stage model in Figure 4 demonstrated good fit to
the data, 2(4, N 79) 5.90, p .207, 2/df 1.47, CFI .981, RMSEA .078, SRMR .051. Consistent with Studies 1–2, those higher in SDO considered disparaging Mexican jokes less offensive primarily through endorsing CHB. Disturbingly, this process facilitated more negative attitudes toward the target of the jokes beyond the influence of prejoke attitudes. Bootstrapping analyses reveal that SDO exerted significant indirect effects on both joke inoffensiveness ( p .007) and postjoke attitudes ( p .015) and that CHB demonstrated a significant indirect effect on postjoke attitudes through joke inoffensiveness ( p .009). Therefore, prejudicial attitudes and social dominance motives promoted the enjoyment of outgroup-disparaging humor (as in Studies 1–2), and rationalizing these jokes as inoffensive (harmless) further contributed to prejudice toward the disparaged group.
Figure 4. Structural equation model test of (extended) two-stage group-dominance model of humor appreciation (Study 3, disparaging condition). 2(4, N 79) 5.90, p .207, 2/df 1.47. Comparative fit index .981; root-mean-square error of approximation .078; standard root-mean-squared residual .051. p .05. p .01. p .001.
HODSON, RUSH, AND MACINNIS
Summary. As in Studies 1–2 individuals relatively higher in SDO or CHB considered Mexican (vs. neutral) jokes significantly more amusing and less offensive. Overall participants did not become more negative toward Mexicans following Mexican joke exposure (M 62.29) relative to their initial attitudes (M 62.43), t 1, ns. This finding is not surprising given contemporary norms against expressions of outgroup biases against low-status groups (Dovidio & Gaertner, 2004). Recall also Mexicandisparaging jokes were relatively less pleasing relative to American-disparaging jokes (Study 2). Increased prejudice following exposure to distasteful and disparaging outgroup jokes would therefore be unlikely (recall Olson et al., 1999), without accounting for individual differences. Among participants exposed to disparaging humor, SDO predicted postjoke Mexican prejudice after controlling for existing anti-Mexican prejudices. The main contribution of Study 3 concerns the relation between joke ratings and postjoke attitudes with participants’ own initial outgroup preferences as controls. Declaring Mexican jokes inoffensive predicted anti-Mexican attitudes after statistically controlling initial attitudes (see Figure 4). Because inoffensiveness judgments trivialize social harm, this joke reaction is well suited to contribute to additional prejudice. Our basic model was therefore successfully extended to incorporate a generalized legitimizing myth (CHB) that feeds a more nuanced context-specific legitimizer (inoffensiveness of specific jokes) contributing to antioutgroup prejudice. Heightened cavalier beliefs about humor therefore perpetuate prejudicial attitudes, in addition to being predicted by such attitudes.
In the present investigation, we considered whether CHBs mediate the relation between social dominance motives and the appreciation of disparaging outgroup humor. Does defending jokes as merely jokes (and nothing more) serve as a hierarchy-enhancing legitimizing myth facilitating group dominance motives? To address this question, we developed the CHB scale, capturing a lighthearted approach to humor that dismisses negative outcomes for others. The scale demonstrated good factor structure, internal reliability, and validity. Those higher in CHB reported aggressive and affiliative functions of humor, were relatively less serious about life, and were more extraverted, less agreeable, and less conscientious (Study 1). Despite making no references to groups or intergroup relations, CHB correlated positively with anti-Black racism (Study 1) and anti-Mexican biases (Studies 1–3) and negatively with UO (tolerant ideologies; Study 1). Endorsement of CHB captures more than simply believing that a joke is just a joke. Rather, its endorsement correlates with factors contributing to negative intergroup relations. The implications of intergroup humor were considered through an SDT framework. Those higher in SDO reacted more favorably toward Mexican-disparaging jokes but did not respond more favorably toward neutral (nonintergroup) jokes (Studies 1–3). Capitalizing on within-subject statistical controls, slopes of individualdifference variables on joke reactions toward low-status group jokes controlled for an individual’s reaction to equally or more amusing nonintergroup jokes. The methodology in Study 2 established that Mexican jokes were appreciated by those with SDO because they disparaged Mexicans. After all, nothing about these
jokes made them more amusing or inoffensive, with only group labels systematically varying across jokes. It is interesting that Canadians higher in SDO did not consider jokes labeled as targeting Canadians particularly appealing (Study 2). In Study 2, increases in SDO did not predict the appreciation of American jokes, due to high levels of American joke appreciation across Canadians. Of particular interest, those higher in SDO appreciated low-status outgroup jokes, whereas those lower in SDO did not. However, both low and high SDO individuals appreciated humor targeting a high-status outgroup. Consistent with SDT, humor most clearly serves personal dominance motives against low-status groups. Across two studies, RWA was unassociated with humor appreciation. In terms of individual differences relevant to prejudice, dominance and competition motives contribute primarily to intergroup humor reactions, not motives for social order and conventionality. Increases in CHB consistently predicted the appreciation (amusement, inoffensiveness) of Mexican-disparaging jokes (Studies 1–3). Notably, CHB did not relate to neutral jokes in any study, despite being rated equivalently amusing or more amusing by the samples overall. Rather than merely representing a benign cavalier philosophy about humor appreciation, the CHB construct is sensitive to intergroup relations and status differentials. In Study 2, CHB moderately predicted appreciation of American (highstatus outgroup) and Canadian (high-status ingroup) jokes. Although those higher in CHB appreciated all group-based humor, their reactions were systematically sensitive to joke target status, particularly preferring jokes keeping low-status groups in positions devoid of influence and power. A meta-analysis across the three studies confirms that at the zero-order level, SDO and CHB moderately and strongly (respectively) predicted joke amusement and inoffensiveness ratings pertaining to disparaging Mexican jokes (see Table 7). This fits our theoretical rationale that SDO, a general orientation concerning intergroup hierarchies, relates more distally toward specific joke stimuli targeting a low-status outgroup (see Figure 1). As a selfreported philosophy about reactions to humor generally, CHB is well positioned to mediate relations between SDO and joke reactions. Our group-dominance model of humor appreciation was very well supported in all cases (Studies 1–3), with significant indirect effects of SDO on joke reactions (see Table 4) and little evidence of direct effects in models after controlling for the mediator. In other words, CHB almost fully accounted for the effects of SDO on the appreciation of jokes disparaging a lowstatus group. Without endorsing CHB, those higher in SDO would not react favorably to such jokes. This finding consistently emerged despite strong statistical control of initial attitudes toward the joke target, ruling out simple outgroup dislike as an explanation. In Study 2, joke content and labels were experimentally controlled, ensuring that target labels (not joke contents) explained these effects. According to the SDT framework, the meditational potency of a legitimizing myth is established through its ability to explain relations between social dominance and outcomes further entrenching inequalities (Sidanius & Pratto, 1999). The present investigation reveals clear evidence that CHB functions as a generalized legitimizing myth facilitating the expression of social dominance motives, significantly mediating SDO-joke reaction relations across three studies (see Table 4) and promoting negative
A JOKE IS JUST A JOKE: CAVALIER HUMOR BELIEFS
Table 7 Meta-Analytic Summary of Joke Reaction Predictors (Studies 1–2; Study 3 Disparaging Condition)
Neutral joke Variable SDO Mean r Z Fail-safe n CHB Mean r Z Fail-safe n Amusing .073 1.382 — .059 1.28 — Inoffensive .105 2.123 — .129 2.362 5 Disparaging Mexican jokes Amusing .323 6.396 44 .537 11.476 132 Inoffensive .214 4.070 18 .437 8.201 76
Note. Total N 391. Fail-safe ns reported for significant effects. Dashes indicate that no value is possible. SDO social dominance orientation; CHB cavalier humor beliefs. p .05. p .001.
attitudes through joke inoffensiveness (see Figure 4). A key contribution here is the discovery of a legitimizing myth markedly more subtle than those previously uncovered. Unlike past SDTbased investigations, we examined a mediator that, on its own, would not necessarily indicate dominance motives. Rather, people can co-opt CHB in the service of facilitating bias while avoiding the appearance of doing so. This process is made possible through several factors. First, the CHB construct makes no reference to groups or status. Moreover, those higher in CHB attribute dual (and statistically independent) functions to their humor use: an affiliative function emphasizing strong social values for humor, and an aggressive function that is dismissive of harm to others. This dual face makes CHB endorsement ideal for masking negative motives behind positive appearances. Intriguingly, those higher in CHB even appreciated ingroup and high-status outgroup jokes (Study 2). This response pattern further masks the direct appearance of group dominance motives; verification of leaked bias, however, is evident, given the particular preference for Mexican-disparaging jokes. Finally, the expression of dominance motives against low-status outgroups was subtle enough to have been overlooked had we not considered SDO and CHB. That is, participants overall did not react more favorably to Mexican jokes than to neutral jokes (Studies 1–3) and, in Study 2, particularly preferred American jokes. Underlying a general preference for humor targeting an identity-threatening high-status outgroup lurks preference for jokes targeting low-status outgroups, but only among those higher in SDO or CHB. Our conceptualization of CHB as a hierarchy-enhancing myth was informed by aversive racism and justification suppression frameworks, in which bias expression requires rationalization and/or ambiguous contexts that can explain away negative personal implications. Not only are humor contexts often ambiguous, but there is little consensus underlying the reasons why people find jokes appealing. As noted by Martin (2007), even humor experts cannot agree on whether disparaging humor is evidence of prejudice, is evidence of rebellion against social conventions, or is simply benign. A socially dominant individual could not ask for better psychological tool to use in humor contexts. Our partici-
pants, for instance, did not uniformly support or reject CHB, with scores around the scale midpoint (see Appendix A). Although a good sense of humor is highly valued (Apte, 1987; Lippa, 2007), being cavalier about joke outcomes is not universally endorsed. CHB involves joke enjoyment in a carefree manner that also involves a disregard for joke outcomes. Clearly, people differ in whether this orientation is personally important, even though humor is valued culturally. In Study 3, we considered whether joke exposure contributes to negative attitudes. Many researchers have failed to find this relation (e.g., Ford et al., 2001; Olson et al., 1999), and we similarly found no general exposure effects in Study 3 when individual differences were ignored. Yet, researchers have recently discovered that joke exposure promotes discrimination in nonjoke relevant settings by inducing less serious thinking (Ford et al., 2008; see Ford & Ferguson, 2004). Building on these findings, we investigated whether some individuals use a cavalier (nonserious) humor orientation in rationalizing group dominance within an SDT framework. In Study 3, outgroup attitudes were measured as an outcome variable, with a pretest–posttest design and with participants as their own controls. In the disparaging condition, SDO predicted postjoke Mexican attitudes beyond initial attitudes, with tests of an extended model revealing mediation through CHB (see Figure 4). In this two-stage model (see Figure 4), CHB served as a generalized legitimizing myth explaining SDO relations with joke reactions, with joke reactions serving as context-specific legitimizing myths contributing to increased prejudice specifically toward the group targeted by the jokes (not unrelated groups, see Table 6). Inoffensive joke reactions effectively channeled CHB endorsement into negative attitudes toward an outgroup in context. Our methodology and analysis reveal a feedback process that can perpetuate negative biases: Those with social dominance motives and negative attitudes appreciate disparaging humor, with exposure to such humor contributing to additional biases. Consistent with prejudice-release theories, ratings of joke inoffensiveness proved particularly important especially in Study 3. Finding anti-Mexican jokes inoffensive (harmless) predicted antiMexican attitudes, even after controlling prejoke attitudes. Finding jokes inoffensive is consistent with the implied levity message inherent in humor communications (Ford et al., 2008), tacitly communicated in the opening Chris Rock joke. However, dismissing intergroup humor as inoffensive sets the stage for rationalizing subsequent prejudices by trivializing potentially negative outcomes. The present findings suggest that the promotion of negative attitudes in humor contexts may be attributable to the more socially palatable reaction that a joke is harmless (inoffensive) rather than hilarious (amusing). In short, those with anti-outgroup attitudes find intergroup jokes both amusing and inoffensive, but only those judging jokes as inoffensive further increase their biases. Our findings add to those by Ford and colleagues (2001, 2008; Ford & Ferguson, 2004), in which levity has generated norms of tolerance toward discrimination. Promisingly, inoffensiveness judgments and social norm perceptions should be tenable to intervention in educational settings. In the future, researchers can explore this assumption. This investigation introduced improvements on past studies and methodologies. In the only known study of SDO and humor reactions, Thomas and Esses (2004) used different jokes for different social targets, using nonequivalent content that differed
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significantly in funniness, repeatability, and offensiveness. Moreover, their mediation tests explaining why hostile sexists intended to repeat jokes considered a mediator and criterion so highly correlated (.88) as to shed little light on mediation. In the present investigation, we used Mexican jokes that were no more amusing than neutral jokes (Studies 1–3), and we systematically controlled for joke content across national groups differing in status (Study 2). We also considered group status differentials directly, examining low- versus high-status outgroup jokes, in addition to ingroup jokes. This extension permitted consideration of a full range of intergroup structural relations.
members to “just have a laugh” at outgroup-disparaging humor. Presumably, such pressure would have negative consequences, particularly among those moderate-to-high in CHB.
Although CHB facilitates social dominance motives and can serve negative intergroup functions, being cavalier about humor is not itself evidence of prejudice. Presumably, a joke is sometimes just a joke. After all, humor serves important functions in society and is key to psychological health (for review, see Martin, 2007). However, our analysis warns that those higher in SDO and personal prejudices are higher in CHB. Moreover, these individuals appear to strategically use CHB endorsement. This does not mean that all or even most people high in CHB are socially dominant. After all, those with SDO engage considerable effort in competitive tasks (Cozzolino & Snyder, 2008) and are patriotic (Pratto et al., 1994), but this does not mean that competitive people or patriots are necessarily high in SDO. In fact, central to our theoretical reasoning, CHB is well positioned as a rationalizing mediator precisely because it is endorsed by those not necessarily high in SDO or prejudice. Finally, intergroup humor need not always contribute to prejudice and may even reduce bias. Controversial film characters such as Borat or Bruno are “meta-bigots” who expose prejudices in ¨ others (Von Baeyer, 2007). Intergroup humor can therefore be used in positive ways, exposing bigotry and generating norms opposing intolerance. A word of caution here is warranted: metabigot humor is characterized by ambiguity, simultaneously representing and mocking prejudices. Such ambiguous humor may inadvertently elicit social dominance motives through beliefs that it is “only humor.”
Limitations and Future Directions
One potential shortcoming concerns the use of single-item attitude measures. We did not ask multiple questions about target group evaluations prior to joke exposure for fear of interference with the study objectives. As desired, our participants did not indicate suspicion about hypotheses. Fortunately, single-item attitude measures are quite widely used and are considered valid indicators of group evaluations. In previous work, such attitude measures demonstrated strong test–retest reliability (rs .91–.93 over 7 days, see Jaccard, Weber, & Lundmark, 1975). Haddock, Zanna, and Esses (1993) reported strong test–retest reliability over 2 weeks (r .77) and good validity through high correlations with a multiple-item measure (r .70). In our nondisparaging condition, visual-analogue line ratings correlated with the subsequently presented thermometer measure (r .70, p .001), suggesting reliability and validity. Nevertheless, future researchers may include a multiple-item attitude measure in a separate pretest session that avoids undue interference with subsequent joke ratings. At present, the vast majority of humor research, especially intergroup humor, involves student samples. Humor settings appear to be very suitable backdrops for studying reserved group dominance motives and prejudices in university settings that strongly sanction expressions of bias. Future researchers can address intergroup humor reactions among adult community samples. Humor may operate differently in older samples, as might prejudice processes more generally (see Henry, 2008). For instance, with increased age the affiliative and aggressive functions of humor wane (Martin et al., 2003), possibly rendering older people less appreciative toward humor against low-status groups. That is, CHB levels might decrease with age, becoming less relevant to expressing social dominance motives in older samples. Even if mean levels of CHB decline with age, however, associations between CHB and joke appreciation presumably remain robust, given their strong association (see Table 7). Future researchers are encouraged to explore these processes in older community samples. The present investigation can serve as a springboard for several new research directions. Future researchers can explore how humor is used by lower status groups, either against the dominant group, other subordinate groups, or against themselves. According to SDT, subordinates and lower status groups cooperate with dominants in maintaining dominance systems, even when against their self-interests. It remains unclear whether humor is used as a hierarchy-enhancing legitimizing myth among lower status groups. Future researchers could also consider whether CHB endorsement is used as a pressure tactic on others, coercing ingroup
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A JOKE IS JUST A JOKE: CAVALIER HUMOR BELIEFS
Appendix A Cavalier Humor Beliefs Scale
Factor loadings Scale Item Sometimes people need to relax and realize that a joke is just a joke. Society needs to lighten up about jokes and humor generally. People get too easily offended by jokes. It is okay to laugh at the differences between people. Jokes are simply fun. People should try to tell jokes that don’t put others down. (reverse scored) Property Mean interitem r M SD Skewness Kurtosis Study 1 .90 .87 .66 .66 .65 .55 .86 .52 4.69 1.16 .12 .43 Study 2 .76 .86 .59 .36 .63 .52 .78 .38 4.83 0.94 .19 .31 Study 3 .84 .74 .63 .50 .45 .43 .76 .35 4.32 0.95 .53 .52
Appendix B Joke Stimuli Neutral (Nonintergroup)
1. A man went for a meal at a chicken restaurant. He asked the manager, “How do you prepare the chickens?” The manager said, “We just tell them straight out that they’re going to die.” What do you call two elephants on a bicycle? Optimistic. A grasshopper walked into a bar. The bartender said, “Hey, we have a drink named after you.” The grasshopper said, “You have a drink named Marlon?” A man was driving along the road when a cat darted out in front of his car. Unable to stop in time, he ran over the cat and killed it. Feeling terribly guilty, he picked up the cat and took it to the owner—a little white-haired old lady. “I’m really sorry,” he said, “but I’m afraid I’ve run over your cat. I’d like to replace it.” “Sure,” said the old lady. “How are you at catching mice?” 7. What do you have when a(n) _____is buried up to his neck in sand? Not enough sand. Two _____truck drivers came to a low bridge. The clearance said 10 feet 8 inches, but when they got out and measured the truck, they realized the vehicle was 11 feet. The first _____looked at the other and said, “I can’t see any cops around. Let’s go for it.” Why do _____s whistle when they’re sitting on the toilet? Because it helps them remember which end they need to wipe. You are stuck in an elevator with a tiger, a lion, and a(n) _____. You have a gun with just two bullets in it. What do you do? Shoot the _____twice to make sure he’s dead. A(n) _____had two horses, but he couldn’t tell them apart. So, he asked his neighbor for advice. The neighbor suggested that he cut the tail off one of the horses. This worked until the other horse snagged his tail on a fence. So, the neighbor suggested notching one of the horses’ ears. This worked until the other horse snagged his ear on a fence. So, the neighbor suggested measuring the heights of the horses. And sure enough, the white horse was two inches taller than the black horse.
Intergroup (Insert Mexican or Mexico, American or America, or Canadian or Canada)
5. What do UFOs and smart _____s have in common? You keep hearing about them, but never see any. What’s the difference between a(n) _____ and a trampoline? You take off your shoes before you jump on a trampoline.
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What’s the first thing a(n) _____girl does when she wakes up? Walks home. What do you call 5,000 dead _____s at the bottom of the ocean? A good start. Two _____s were out hunting when they came upon a couple of tracks. After close examination, the first _____ declared them to be deer tracks. The second _____disagreed, insisting they must be buffalo tracks. They were still arguing when a train hit them. Why do only 10% of _____s make it to Heaven? Because if they all went, it would be Hell. What’s the difference between Big Foot and an intelligent _____? Big Foot has been spotted several times. A(n) _____went on his first parachute jump. The instructor told the _____exactly what to do and, on leaving the plane, he pulled the ripcord and floated downward. The instructor followed him out of the plane, but his parachute failed to open and he plummeted past the _____heading toward the ground. Seeing this, the _____immediately undid the straps to his parachute and shouted, “So you wanna race, huh?” What’s the difference between a dead dog on the road and a dead _____on the road? There are skid marks in front of the dog.
What do you call an intelligent person in _____? A tourist. A ventriloquist had just finished his _____joke routine when a huge _____confronted him, “I’m sick of your _____jokes and I’m going to knock the crap out of you.” “I’m sorry, it was all in good fun,” replied the comedian. The _____retorted, ‘You stay out of this! I was talking to the little jerk on your knee.” Two _____s were building a house. One man picked up a nail, hammered it in, picked up another nail, threw it away. After that he picked up a nail, hammered it in, picked up another nail, threw it away. After this had been going on for some time, his workmate finally came over and asked him why he was throwing half the nails away. “It’s obvious,” he said. “Those ones were pointed at the wrong end.” “How could you be so stupid?” said his friend. “They were for the other side of the house!” How can you tell when a(n) _____is well hung? When you can barely fit your finger between his neck and the rope.
Study 1 and Study 3 (Disparaging condition): 3, 12, 17, 19. Study 2: 1–22. Study 3 (Nondisparaging condition): 1– 4 Received July 16, 2009 Revision received February 18, 2010 Accepted February 24, 2010
Correction to Hodson, Rush, and MacInnis (2010)
In the article “A Joke Is Just a Joke (Except When It Isn’t): Cavalier Humor Beliefs Facilitate the Expression of Group Dominance Motives,” by Gordon Hodson, Jonathan Rush, and Cara C. MacInnis (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2010, Vol. 99, No. 4, pp. 660 – 682), there was an error in Table 6. The last row of data should have read “Obese”, not “Mexican”.