Personality and Individual Differences 48 (2010) 563–567

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Personality and Individual Differences
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Individual differences in personal humor styles: Identification of prominent patterns and their associates
Graeme Galloway *
School of Psychological Science, La Trobe University, Bendigo Campus, P.O. Box 199, Bendigo, Victoria 3552, Australia

a r t i c l e

i n f o

a b s t r a c t
Considerable recent research attention is evident in the humor and related literature concerning the topic of humor styles. The major focus to date has been on such styles considered individually rather than the combination of styles characteristic of any given person. Information about the latter topic can arguably advance understanding about humor styles and is examined in the present study. A cluster analysis of participants based on their self-ratings regarding Aggressive, Self-defeating, Affiliative, and Self-enhancing humor styles was performed. Four clusters of people were identified consisting of those who score: (1) above average on all of the styles, or (2) below average on all of the styles, or (3) above average on the positive styles (Affiliative and Self-enhancing), and below average on the negative styles (Aggressive and Self-defeating), or (4) above average on the negative styles and below average on the positive styles. Big Five personality and Self-esteem correlates of each cluster are reported and the theoretical, practical, and research implications of the findings are discussed. Ó 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Article history: Received 17 December 2008 Received in revised form 6 December 2009 Accepted 10 December 2009 Available online 8 January 2010 Keywords: Humor styles Cluster analysis Psychological health Base arousal Personality

1. Introduction This study concerns the humor use component of sense of humor, the specific aim being to identify and clarify the nature of distinct clusters of people classified by reference to their profiles on the Humor Styles Questionnaire (HSQ) (Martin, Puhlik-Doris, Larsen, Gray, & Weir, 2003). The HSQ provides measures of four styles, two characterized by Martin et al. as related positively to psychosocial health and well-being (Affiliative and Self-enhancing), and two (Aggressive and Self-defeating) which they describe as negatively related to those variables (p. 72). Two classes of study concerning the HSQ styles are evident in the literature to date – examinations of correlations between the styles, and investigations of which other individual difference variables are correlated with each style. Martin et al. (2003) report that the two positive styles are positively correlated, as are the two negative ones. Each of the positive styles are also negatively correlated with depression and anxiety, and positively correlated with Selfesteem, Extraversion, Openness (Martin et al., 2003) and Agreeableness (Saroglou & Scariot, 2002). Both negative styles are negatively correlated with Agreeableness and Conscientiousness, as well as being positively correlated with Neuroticism, hostility, and aggression (Martin et al., 2003). However, simple correlations between the styles cannot provide an accurate indication about the important topic of individual differ* Tel.: +61 3 5444 7511; fax: +61 3 5444 850. E-mail address: 0191-8869/$ - see front matter Ó 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2009.12.007

ences in style profiles – that is, the styles characteristic of distinct groups of people. Specification of such differences can potentially enhance understanding about the HSQ styles. For example, it is possible that similar scores on the same styles might not be motivated by the same variables for distinct groups of people. As one illustration, people who score above average on the two negative styles might show that pattern because they are lower in psychosocial health and well-being. However, other people who score above average on the two negative styles may do so because they are Extraverts. Klein and Kuiper (2006) indicate that both of the positive and both of the negative styles can assist a person in gaining acceptance in a group which is widely held to be important for Extraverts (see, for example, Donnellan, Oswald, Baird, & Lucas, 2006). The present study aims to add to knowledge about the HSQ styles through examination of the psychological characteristics of the people associated with a distinct style pattern. Now, Martin et al. (2003) hypothesized that the HSQ scales will be related to the Big Five personality variables Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, Neuroticism, and to Self-esteem (pp. 51–54). Accordingly, those traits are examined here to assist in interpretation of the style patterns obtained. In terms of these variables, for instance, the abovementioned possibility would be supported by the observation that one group of people who score above average on each HSQ scale score above average on Extraversion, while a different group who score above average on just the negative styles score below average on such things as Self-esteem. Identification of style patterns can be accomplished by cluster analysis which is appropriate to use where the aim is to categorize

and minimizes variability within clusters. Results 3. and recommend values should fall within the range . The sample comprises 181 females (mean age = 36. For the Aggressive humor style. * The correlation is significant. However. and reasonable unidimensionality. Application of that technique requires the researcher to specify the number of clusters to be generated and produces discrete groups that are usually easy to interpret.2.50. & Leese. but those for Aggressive and for Affiliative humor styles are around . 2001). and vice versa (see Martin et al. 49). which are requirements of a good cluster solution (Hill & Lewicki.17.06(N = 305) . The technique yields meaningful and useful results in research comparable to that undertaken here (for example. In addition. as well as ones characterized by above average scores on the positive styles and below average scores on the negative ones. Method 2. There is no one ‘‘goodness of fit” test of a given cluster solution (Everitt. Table 1 reports the alpha values for each of the humor style measures. pp. and a significant negative correlation with Self-esteem. and the Humor Styles Questionnaire (Martin et al.5 may be useful if it has other desirable properties. 1992. (2003). Landau. Affiliative Aggressive Self-enhancing Self-defeating 1 62 .8.2. which constitutes a response rate of around 65%.69 . 2.7. These include patterns comprising above average or below average scores on each style (see comments on Extraversion above). Reliability checks It is widely assumed that alpha values greater than .04 (N = 301) . Aron and Aron (2003. The lower alpha values observed for two of the humor scales were therefore not viewed as posing difficulties for this research. Galloway. p. 1992. The alpha values observed for the Big Five personality variables and for Self-esteem in this study (see Table 2) all exceed that value. 3. 4. Existing theoretical perspectives on the functions of humor are suggestive about some of the humor style patterns that would make sense if obtained. 2. 361. Data analysis As indicated above.1 years.. A degree of trial and error is therefore usually required in choosing the best cluster solution (see Landau & Everitt.7. Cronbach alphas and mean inter-item correlations were calculated to check the reliability of the abovementioned scales. In fact.. range = 18–71) returned usable survey packs. k-means cluster analysis (Quickcluster) was used to categorize respondents on the basis of their scores on each of the HSQ styles.1 years. range = 18–68). The similarities between the patterns of associations observed here for the humor styles and those Table 1 Correlations between the humor styles – total sample. This in turn allows a determination of whether the HSQ provides valid measures for the participants tested in the present study. This issue is examined further in discussion of the present results. the present results also identified a significant positive correlation with Extraversion (an association also reported by Saroglou & Scariot. 377). and between the styles and other individual difference measures. the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (Rosenberg. 2002. are reported in Tables 1 and 2 respectively. Self-defeating = .. The widely used k-means cluster analysis (Quickcluster) is employed to that end in the present study. 2007). 309). An information statement as well as a demographics data collection sheet were also included in the survey pack. 2. Participants completed and returned the surveys anonymously.1. range = 18–71). Although the Big Five and Self-esteem will be appealed to for interpretation of the patterns of humor styles observed here. it is not suggested that these are the only variables that might motivate the patterns obtained.68 Cronbach alphas for each scale are included on the diagonal and are all based on N = 318. SD = 14.70. Large numbers of cases can be analyzed using Quickcluster which maximizes variability between clusters. 1965). Specifically. Self-enhancing humor style was observed to be associated with all but one (Openness) of the variables it was found to be associated with by Martin et al. including meaningful content with respect to the domain covered. 3.16. (2003). 2004. p < . pp. These are provided in order to enable comparison of the findings observed here with those reported in previous studies. pp.61 . Pearson correlations and v2 analysis were used to examine other relationships of interest. 3. .36* (N = 303) 3 4 .0 for Windows. 2006).05.21* (N = 305) .6 or greater are acceptable.60. which should be done taking into account the interpretability and parsimony of the solutions considered (Diekhoff. (2003). Each of these measures show acceptable levels of reliability. the investigator will typically have to estimate how many clusters it is best to extract from the data. Galloway / Personality and Individual Differences 48 (2010) 563–567 people who are similar in some regard (Diekhoff. Several of the associations between the humor styles. and between the styles and other individual difference variables.10(N = 307) 2 .43* (N = 305) . Mean inter-item correlations observed in the present study for each humor style scale are: Affiliative = . 133 males (mean age = 36. 2002). 316) suggest that the average inter-item correlation is a better measure than coefficient alpha of a scale’s internal consistency. All statistical procedures were performed using SPSS 14. reflect those reported in previous research.21. SD = 14. 607) claim that alphas of . 51–53).7 are required for acceptable reliability (Nunnally. p. p. Table 2 reports the associations of the four HSQ styles with Self-esteem and the Big Five personality variables.21. 368–369). Humor styles 1.2. 2003). Approximately half of the total sample consists of undergraduate or postgraduate university students. p. in addition to the significant associations observed by Martin et al.15–. correlations between the humor styles for the total sample (see Table 1) mirror those reported by Martin et al. The remainder of the participants were chosen from the general community through networks available to the researcher. 1978).1. The alphas for the Self-enhancing and the Self-defeating humor styles are very close to . Associates of the humor styles The correlations between the HSQ styles. Participants A convenience sample of 318 Australian participants (mean age = 36.3. Clark and Watson (1995. Schmitt (1996) suggests that even a scale with an alpha as low as around . However.564 G. Materials and procedure A survey pack was created consisting of: the International Personality Item Pool (IPIP) which provides measures of each of the Big Five personality constructs (Donnellan et al. 2003. Selfenhancing = . Aggressive = . SD = 14. 2. The findings for the Affiliative and Self-defeating styles reflect those reported by Martin et al. and four respondents who did not indicate gender.

05) is associated with these numbers indicating differences between clusters regarding the expected and observed proportions of males and females in each. These results are examined in more detail below.45 73 4 À.40 .38* 306 O . Cluster 2 = below average on each style.06 310 À. each of the four clusters are easily interpretable within existing theoretical frameworks. below average on the negative styles. The cluster analysis As indicated above. and close to the mean on the other traits.08 303 . one or two of the clusters in the four-cluster solution. 3. Members of Cluster 2 are above average on Conscientiousness. Cluster 3 are above average on the positive styles. Cluster 3 = above average on the positive styles.27 . Members of Cluster 1 are above average on Openness and Extraversion. Clusters 1 and 4 comprise a larger than expected proportion of males. A significant chi square value (v2 = 8. Extraversion. as indicated below. Cluster 4 = above average on the negative styles.08 310 . and close to the mean on Openness.84 .32 .10 93 SE = Self-esteem. As indicated above.82 .17* 301 36* 303 À. Table 4 reports mean z scores on Self-esteem and the personality traits for the people in each cluster.3. Specifically.28* 309 E . Specifically.58 À. Several indicators of low base arousal characterize the members of Cluster 1. for instance.23 .04 309 A . Cluster 3 members are above average on Self-esteem. Specifically.4. ** Cronbach alphas are all based on N = 318. . below average on the positive styles. higher sensation seekers are assumed to be. Galloway / Personality and Individual Differences 48 (2010) 563–567 Table 2 Correlations of the humor styles with Self-esteem and Big Five personality variables. 2003).35 .14* 307 À.1. p < .01 .01 .70 .68 À. O = Openness. Conscientiousness.43* 307 . as well as being focused and organized.31* 307 .27 . E = Extraversion. Several k-means cluster analyses were conducted. Clusters* N’s Total N = 296 % of total N Humor styles Self-enhancing Self-defeating Aggressive Affiliative * 1 97 33% 2 66 22% 3 74 25% 4 59 20% . the members of Cluster 1 (above average on each style) are outgoing and open to new experiences.09 .71 . below average on Extraversion.82 . Humor styles Alphas = Affiliative N’s Aggressive N’s Self-enhancing N’s Self-defeating N’s ** 565 Table 4 Mean z scores by cluster for Self-esteem and Big Five personality variables.78 À.02 61 3 .23 À.07 303 .36* 310 2 À. higher Neuroticism scorers. not outgoing.43 À.47 . given that five and six cluster solutions which were also examined resulted in a replication of.16* 305 . Extraversion.69 . Members of Cluster 2 (below average on each style) are restrained.29* 306 .12 56 À. with a four-cluster solution judged to be the most appropriate. Clusters* 1 Self-esteem Openness Conscientiousness Extraversion Agreeableness Neuroticism N’s for means * SE .45 À.33 . they Table 3 Mean z scores on each humor style for each cluster and percentage of participants in each cluster. Table 5 Observed and expected percentages of males and females in each cluster. respectively.94 Cluster 1 = above average on each style. Galloway and Chirico (2008) indicate that people who are higher in base arousal. Clusters 1 Females (N = 168) Number in each cluster 47 Expected% of females in each cluster = 57% Observed % 49% Males (N = 127) Number in each cluster 49 Expected% of males in each cluster = 43% Observed% 51% 2 44 67% 22 33% 3 48 65% 26 35% 4 29 49% 30 51% obtained in other studies are consistent with the suggestion that the HSQ does provide a valid measure of humor style for the participants in this study.16* 310 N .75 À1.52 À.27* 306 . The number of males and females in each cluster was examined in order to assist interpretation of the patterns of styles identified (see Table 5).05 .50 . Cluster 1 comprises people who scored above average on each of the humor styles. 4. and Clusters 2 and 3 contain a greater proportion of females than expected.50* 309 .12 À.03 306 C . Members of Cluster 4 are below average on Self-esteem. C=Conscientiousness.35* 308 . interpretability and parsimony are criteria for deciding on the best cluster solution. Openness. do not enjoy stimulation as much as do people who are lower in base arousal as. * The correlation is significant.55 À.32 À.12 310 À.11 À. and Agreeableness. df = 3. A = Agreeableness. See Table 3 for description of clusters. They are also impulsive given that they scored below average on Agreeableness and Conscientiousness which are negatively related to Impulsivity (Acton. and below average on the negative styles. Discussion 4. and below average on Conscientiousness and Agreeableness. but are close to the mean on Self-esteem and Neuroticism.21* 305 À.05.60 À.78 À. for instance.16* 307 À. p < .G.39 À. The mean z scores on each humor style by cluster and the percentage of participants in each cluster are reported in Table 3. those in Cluster 2 are below average on each style.13 À.35 . and Cluster 4 are above average on the negative styles and below average on the positive ones. and close to the mean on Conscientiousness and Neuroticism.27 À. N = Neuroticism. Participants’ mean raw scores on each of the four humor styles and on each of the Big Five personality variables as well as Self-esteem were transformed into z scores to facilitate interpretation of the results. Specifically. The nature of the clusters The personality and gender-based profiles of each cluster of people identified here are suggestive about possible determinants of the style patterns observed. The four-cluster solution is also more parsimonious.82 .02 307 À.66 . k-means cluster analysis was used to identify categories of people characterized by distinct patterns of scores on the HSQ scales. They are also below average on Neuroticism. and Agreeableness. A variable that might underlie the patterns of styles observed for Clusters 1 and 2 is base arousal.30 À.74 À.

Although such relationships are mirrored in Clusters 3 and 4. Self-esteem is positively correlated with the positive styles. if not. The self-defeating style associated with Cluster 4 might also negatively influence self-image because it involves self-criticism and emotional repression (Martin et al. and negatively correlated with the negative ones. The members of Cluster 3 (above average on the positive styles. racist. 2. males tending to like arousal more than do females (Galloway. but for Clusters 1 and 4 Openness is related to all of the styles. However. and philosophical humor. Now. Higher Impulsivity is also associated with liking of arousal (Acton. 2008). 160). However. the above average scores on Conscientiousness and below average scores on Extraversion associated with members of Cluster 2 are consistent with them being higher in base arousal (Revelle & Loftus. Hendin. and 4 score above or below the mean on are related to one or more of the variables locus of control. such humor might also occasion a negative reaction towards the user from those it is directed at which might reinforce the user’s lower self-image. Cluster 1 contains a greater than expected proportion of males. 2003). arousal theories of humor propose that it involves an increase in. On the other hand. whereas for Cluster 3 above average scores on Agreeableness go together with above average scores on the Self-enhancing scale. Graziano & Ward. the aggressive style characteristic of people in Cluster 4 (who are not open to new experiences as well as being negative towards themselves and others) might reduce perceived threats to their self-image. Furthermore. 2009). The people in Cluster 4 (above average on the negative styles. their above average scores on the positive humor scales are not surprising. (2003). Parks. simple correlations cannot indicate the number of distinct style patterns that characterize a given cohort of people. the personality links identified here for the people associated with a particular humor style pattern also provide a basis for suggestions about some of the other variables it might be worth investigating in order to increase knowledge about the motivators of such patterns. This could result in humor content which is sexist. Specifically. & Kowalski. Erez. The two positive styles as well as the Aggressive style are positively correlated individually with Extraversion. & Ong. Getz..1. as reported in Table 5. Such people enjoy higher status in groups and other interpersonal contexts (see Robins.. Westen. 2007). members of Cluster 1 are above average on all of the styles. 1978). Such people might use humor to defend against perceived threats to their self-image. 2003). as noted by Martin et al. below average scores on Agreeableness are associated with above average scores on that scale. The below average scores for members of Cluster 2 on each of the HSQ scales are therefore consistent with a desire to avoid increasing an already high base arousal. Effects and associates of patterns of humor styles Another issue for future research concerns the effects particular patterns of humor styles bring about. as indicated earlier in this paper. Self-esteem is not related to any of the styles for people in Clusters 1 and 2. 1994). and positive towards themselves and others. The positive styles can reinforce their already positive relationships with those who afford them higher social status. Replication of the results would serve to increase confidence in the reliability of the patterns observed.2. their use of aggressive humor can devalue those who they perceive as not valuing them. for taxonomies of jokes and wit). Several issues requiring further research regarding this topic will now be considered. 2008). it is an empirical question for further research whether above or below average scores on the personality traits examined in this study are associated with higher or lower mean scores on other variables the former are correlated with individually. or sick (see Long & Graesser. and females tend to like arousal less than do males (Galloway et al. Furthermore. Bono. Given this. Cluster 2 also contains a greater than expected percentage of females. Consider the following examples based on simple correlations reported in Table 2. For instance. and those in Cluster 3. 1999). as is higher Openness (Arnett. below average on the negatives) can be portrayed as well-balanced. are above average on Extraversion. Judge. & Thoresen. Galloway / Personality and Individual Differences 48 (2010) 563–567 scored above average on Extraversion which is positively associated with sensation seeking (Eysenck & Zuckerman.566 G. irony. p. Mitchell. Another important issue concerns whether the present patterns replicate in cultures different from the Australian one and. generalized self-efficacy. Suggestions for further research 5. The analysis provided above extends knowledge about the HSQ scales beyond what can be known about them through examination of correlates of the individual scales. The below average scores on each of the HSQ scales associated with individuals who are restrained. below average on the positives) can be described as not being open to new experiences as well as being negative towards themselves and others. In fact. low in anxiety. relationships reported in the abovementioned studies raise the possibility that members of Cluster 4 might be below average on self-monitoring and generalized self-efficacy. The people in Cluster 1. Agreeableness is significantly positively correlated individually with Self-enhancing style. 1988. & Mount. the style pattern characteristic of Cluster 4 could occasion detrimental effects for members of that cluster. Crouch. while those in Cluster 3 are above average on the positives and below average on the negative styles. each humor style can facilitate social interaction which in turn is a source of arousal. 3. this could also give rise to anxiety-arousing negative reactions from other people. each of the personality variables members of Clusters 1. self-defeating humor might help such individuals deny to themselves and others that they harbor feelings of low self-worth. 2001. as indicated above. The observation that such is the case for some or all of the abovementioned variables will result in greater understanding about the motivators of style patterns and could be useful regarding such things as how to address problems associated with a particular style profile. & Trzesniewski. Replication of the patterns of humor styles and their associates An obvious issue for further research concerns whether the patterns of humor styles and their individual difference correlates observed here replicate for samples similar to the present one. 2002). which aspects of a given culture influence the style profiles of its members. 1992. and are motivated to maintain or enhance positive feelings about themselves (Burton. Specifically. This could involve use of more lighthearted humor content. Openness is not correlated with three of the four styles considered individually. 1990). 5. Given this. such as satire. However. self-monitoring (Barrick. and sensation seeking (Eysenck & Zuckerman. For instance. Also. Of course. Examination of such issues would best be carried out using a longitudinal research design (see Galloway & Cropley. and then reduction of. Now. and more . 1978). highly focused and organized (Cluster 2) could in some contexts have the desired effect of lessening interactions with others. 5. However. For instance. arousal/tension (see Martin. nor the combination of individual difference traits which motivate any such pattern. 2005. for people in Cluster 1. Furthermore. simple correlations can be misleading about the associates of humor styles for different people. the above average scores on each humor scale characteristic of Cluster 1 can be viewed as consistent with a desire of under-aroused individuals to increase their arousal levels.

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