Using Humor to Create a Better Self-esteem
Sponsored by Missouri Western State University Sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation DUE-97-51113
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The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
FORD, D. R. (1999). Using Humor to Create a Better Self-esteem. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 2. Available online at http://www.webclearinghouse.net/volume/. Retrieved November 19, 2017 .

Using Humor to Create a Better Self-esteem
DELIA R. FORD
Missouri Western State University DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHOLOGY

Sponsored by: Brian Cronk (cronk@missouriwestern.edu)
ABSTRACT
There has been numerous research done in the field of humor, self-esteem, and a combination of both. Researchers are doing experiments on people`s attitudes toward their self-esteem, their self-worth, and how they can use humor to decrease stress in order to increase their self-worth. The current study looked at sense of humor,and how a good sense of humor could increase someone`s self-esteem. The participants that were used in this study were two separate Psychology 101 classes. One class consisted of 52 people and the other class consisted of 56 people, males and females. Each individual received a copy of the Sense of Humor Questionnaire-Liking of Humor Scale. The other questionnaire given to the subjects was the Rosenberg`s Self-esteem Inventory. There was a short ten minute video clip, one being funny for one class and the other being unfunny for the second class, in between the two questionnaires. This was a quasi-experimental design, with the dependent variable being the self-esteem, and the independent variable being the funny or unfunny movie clip. There was found to be no significant main effect for the movie clip (F(104)=1.717, p=.193), no significant main effect for sense of humor (F(104)=.487, p=.487), and no significant interaction of the movie and sense of humor (F(104)=.044, p=.835). It was found that the movie clip and the subjects` sense of humor had no effect on their self-esteem. This study demonstrated that the movie did not influence anyone`s sense of humor. To take a direction for future research, someone could look at establishing more than one stimulus or even a different stimulus than the one used(the movie), and as a second alternative could look at a more specific detail of self-esteem, for example stress on self-esteem, as opposed to self-esteem in general.

INTRODUCTION
Humor can be defined as having the ability to see the unstressful or lighter side of situations, whether they are bad or good. It is a way of feeling, inside the body and mind, that laughing or using humor makes the body and mind feel less tired and more positive. Self-esteem can be defined as the way people see themselves or their self-worth. Self-esteem can be high for some individuals and low for others, and may even fall in the middle of feeling somewhat okay about yourself. To have a high self-esteem, an individual can feel that they are at a maximum level of growth potential, or at their peak of who they want to be. Individuals with low self-esteem may feel inferior to others, as they themselves feel not worthy of having the same things others have because they feel so low about who they are and where they are going. Martin(1993) suggested that a humorous perspective on one`s problems allows to distance oneself from them, to take them less seriously, and thereby experience them as less threatening and distressing. Martin`s research has built upon past work that has dmonstrated that high humor individuals display less negative affect for adverse life circumstances than low humor individuals. Norman Cousins(1979) published an account of his recovery from a serious disease through humor and laughter, now giving rise to much attention in the popular media to the importance of humor for physical and psychological health. In a study done by Martin and Dobbin(1988) subjects provided a saliva sample, along with four self-report measures, to measure secretory immunoglobulin-A to see if humor had an affect in the immune system`s defense against viral and bacterial infections. Their findings found a significantly moderating effect of humor for the relation between daily hassles and S-IgA levels. The individuals with the low humor scores showed immunosuppressive effect of stress in that higher levels of hassles were related to lower levels of S-IgA. In contrast, the high humor individuals increased stress did not result in suppression of the immune system`s defenses. Humor has many uses that are now being examined due to the research on many different topics of humor. Humor is linked to things from stress to illness to self-concept. Several authors have stated that it has been proposed that humor may be a particularly effective means of mitigating the effects of stress(Lefcourt and Martin, 1986; Martin, 1989). They found that more humorous individuals respond with significantly lower levels of disturbed mood(for instance, depression) than less humorous individuals. It has also been proposed by the above authors that the effective use of humor ultimately enhances one`s view of self, leasing to a more positive and healthier self-concept. Siporin(1986) contends that humor is an instrument in therapy for cognitive, emotional, and behavioral change. In such fields as social work, humor is a creative act helpful in surviving the stress and attacks inherent in the field. Humor can also be used as a coping skill used in ways that are nonhostile and self-accepting. Laughter represents a healthy, broad-spectrum coping strategy. Self-esteem is a subject that can be easily measured. Many things can influence whether a person has a good self-esteem or not. Sanna, Meier, Turley and Kandi(1997) demonstrated that moods can influence self-esteem, assessed in this case using the Rosenberg`s Self-Esteem Scale. They found that although both high self-esteem and low self-esteem generated more downward than upward counterfactuals when in positive moods, they diverged in their reactions to negative moods. Self-esteem focuses on emotional self-regulation. Some individuals are able to control their emotional reactivity to use in their favor. Those are the people who are high self-esteem individuals. Those who lack control are low self-esteem individuals. Authors Norris and Weinman(1996) did a study on the effects of a long sail training voyage on self-esteem. They did a number of psychometric questionnaires prior to the voyage and directly following the return. The results showed that the expected significant improvement in self-esteem was demonstrated, especially among the women. An indicator of a healthy self-concept relates to the temporal stability of one`s view of self. In a study done by Kuiper and Olinger(1989), it was found that greater stability is thought to reflect a more consolidated or certain view of self in individuals with more positive psychological adjustment. In their study they also assessed the personal standards individuals employ to evaluate their self-concept. They did this by having each individuals complete the dysfunctional attitudes scale. The authors found that individuals endorsing a large number of extreme self-evaluative standards are more vulnerable to depression and anxiety. With all the research being done on humor and on self-esteem, it is finally being put together to look at how humor can effect, if at all, self-esteem. Authors Martin, Kuiper, Olinger and Dance(1993) conducted a study with university students to measure several indicators of self-concept. To measure this they used four different self-report scales to assess sense of humor. The assess self-esteem the subjects took the Rosenberg`s self-esteem inventory. Overall the findings indicate that greater levels of humor are associated with a more positive self-concept, and may also play an important role in enhancing the enjoyment of positive life experiences. According to Kuiper and Martin(1993) the research provides a direct empirical test of the proposed links between humor and a healthier, more positive self-concept. They employed four different self-report measures to assess humor level. To assess self-concept they used an adjective self-rating task, and the Rosenberg`s self-esteem inventory. There are all different ways in which to show that humor can increase self-esteem. A therapist, for example, can use humor during a group session to address object relations and self psychology perspectives. Humor and laughter play a vital part in our everyday social encounters. Chapman(1996) found that the applications of humor in everyday life should be explored, especially to those individuals in areas of human behavior and social interaction. Humor has no age boundaries. Laughter can be displayed from the young to the elderly, and if started at an early age according to Chubb(1995) can help them learn to effectively manage their lives and can nurture self-esteem.Humor is a pervasive, constant part of life that provides significant and often unexpected release from stress. Humor is a source of self-esteem and is an effective defense in a wide variety of situations. The purpose of my study is to show a correlation between sense of humor and self-esteem. The reason I wanted to do this study was to show that people who laugh more and have a better sense of humor will have a higher self-esteem. Those people with lower self-esteem could possibly increase their self-esteem with humor.


PARTICIPANTS
Participants The participants that were used in this study were two separate Psychology 101 classes. One class consisted of 52 people and the other class consisted of 56 people, males and females.

METHOD
Method The participants that were used in this study were two separate Psychology 101 classes. One class consisted of 52 people and the other class consisted of 56 people, males and females. Each individual received a copy of the Sense of Humor Questionnaire-Liking of Humor Scale first to fill out. This scale was devised by Sven Svebak from his work done with sense of humor. An example question was, "Those telling jokes to make others laugh really do it to assert themselves." The other questionnaire given to the subjects was the Rosenberg`s Self-esteem Inventory. This scale was devised by Morris Rosenberg from his work in self-esteem. An example question was, "I wish I could have more respect for myself." There was a short ten minute video clip shown in between the two questionnaires. The unfunny video clip was done in the first class and was titled Sense and Sensibility. The funny video clip, done in the second class, was titled My Best Friend`s Wedding. One class, after filling out the Sense of Humor questionnaire then watched a ten minute video clip of a humorous movie. The other class watched a ten minute video clip of an unhumorous movie. Both classes, after watching the movie clip, then took the Rosenberg`s self-esteem inventory. Both classes were asked, before taking the Rosenberg, to rate on a scale of one to ten how funny they thought the movie clip was. This was a quasi-experimental design, with the dependent variable being the self-esteem, and the independent variable being the funny or unfunny movie clip.

MATERIALS
Each individual received a copy of the Sense of Humor Questionnaire-Liking of Humor Scale first to fill out. This scale was devised by Sven Svebak from his work done with sense of humor. An example question was, "Those telling jokes to make others laugh really do it to assert themselves." The other questionnaire given to the subjects was the Rosenberg`s Self-esteem Inventory. This scale was devised by Morris Rosenberg from his work in self-esteem. An example question was, "I wish I could have more respect for myself." There was a short ten minute video clip shown in between the two questionnaires. The unfunny video clip was done in the first class and was titled Sense and Sensibility. The funny video clip, done in the second class, was titled My Best Friend`s Wedding.

PROCEDURE
One class, after filling out the Sense of Humor questionnaire then watched a ten minute video clip of a humorous movie. The other class watched a ten minute video clip of an unhumorous movie. Both classes, after watching the movie clip, then took the Rosenberg`s self-esteem inventory. Both classes were asked, before taking the Rosenberg, to rate on a scale of one to ten how funny they thought the movie clip was. This was a quasi-experimental design, with the dependent variable being the self-esteem, and the independent variable being the funny or unfunny movie clip.


RESULTS
There was a median split done to break the sense of humor scores into a high sense of humor group and a low sense of humor group, with the median being 57.0.There was also a 2X2(sense of humor and movie clip) Between Subjects Analysis of Variance done, where there was found to be no significant main effect for the movie clip (F(104)=1.717, p=.193), no significant main effect for sense of humor (F(104)=.487, p=.487), and no significant interaction of the movie and sense of humor (F(104)=.044, p=.835). It was found that the movie clip and the subjects` sense of humor had no effect on their self-esteem. See figure one on the marginal mean of self-esteem. A correlation was done between self-esteem and humor, and found that there was no relationship (r(108)=-.009, p=.926) between the two variables. The funny movie clip was, however, perceived by the subjects as being funny M=7.90, and the unfunny movie clip was seen as unfunny M=2.07.


DISCUSSION
Limitations to this study could have been the time constraints on the stimulus/movie clip, or the type of sense of humor questionnaire that was used. To take a direction for future research, someone could look at establishing more than one stimulus or even a different stimulus than the one used(the movie), and as a second alternative could look at a more specific detail of self-esteem, for example stress on self-esteem, as opposed to self-esteem in general. The one thing that was found to be correlated was reaction obtained from the two movies. The funny movie was scored high and the unfunny movie was scored low, which were the results that were supposed to be obtained. This shows that the stimuli picked out for this study was received in the correct way. Another possibility for future research would be to enhance the stimulus that was used. For example, I could have used a longer video clip than the ten minute one used which could have effected their reception towards the study. The participants simply may have not had enough of the stimulus to effect them in any way. There were also two other subsections to the sense of humor questionnaire, as stated above, that may have been better at looking at the type of sense of humor that this study was looking for.


REFERENCES
Chapman, A.J. (1996). Humor and Laughter: Theory, Research, and Applications. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers.

Chubb, R. (1995). Humor: A valuable laugh skill. Journal of Child and Youth Care, 10, 61-66.

Cousins, N. (1979). Anatomy of an Illness. New York: Norton.

Kuiper, N.A. & Martin, R.A. (1993). Humor and self-concept. International Journal of Humor Research, 6, 251-270.

Kuiper, N.A. & Olinger, J.L. (1989). Stress and Cognitive Vulnerability to Depression: A Social Cognition Perspective. NewYork: Oxford University Press.

Lefcourt, H.M. & Martin, R.A. (1986). The Dynamic Self-Concept: A Social Psychological Perspective. Palo Alto, CA: Annual Reviews, Inc.

Martin, R.A. (1989). Humor and the Mastery of Living: Using Humor to Cope with the Daily Stresses of Growing. New York: Haworth Press.

Martin, R.A. & Dobbin, J.P. (1988). Sense of humor, hassles, and Immunoglobulin A: Evidence for a stress moderating effect of humor. International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine, 18, 93-105.

Martin, R.A., Kuiper, N.A., Olinger, J.L. & Dance, K.A. (1993). Humor, coping with stress, self-concept and psychological well-being. International Journal of Humor Research, 6, 89-104.

Norris, R.M. & Weinman, J.A. (1996). Psychological change following a long sail training voyage. Personality and Individual Differences, 21, 189-194.

Sanna, L.J., Meier, S., Turley, A. & Kandi, J. (1997). Counterfactual direction of mood influence. Social Cognition, 3, 26-31.

Siporin, M. (1986). Have you heard the one about social work humor? Social Casework, 8, 121-127.


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