Effectiveness and sex differences in humor coping techniques
LE3 .A278 1999
Master of Science
This thesis explored the relationship between humor and stress by examining the effects of self-directed humor on cardiovascular reactivity (CVR) and mood levels during exposure to a stressor. After baseline levels of blood pressure, heart rate, and mood were measured, 59 undergraduate and graduate student participants were exposed to 4 different stress and humor treatment conditions: (1) stress plus humor, (2) stress without humor, (3) no stress with humor, and (4) no stress and no humor. Measures of CVR and mood levels were then taken on 2 more occasions during the study in order to evaluate the effects of the 4 conditions. The humor treatment was comprised of 2 phases. The first phase consisted of a 5-minute video of the Mr. Bean character as portrayed by Rowan Atkinson, and the second phase consisted of a 5-minute writing exercise in which participants imagined themselves in the same situation as the protagonist. The stressor was a 10-minute recording of a crying 2-year-old child played at 90 dbs. It was hypothesized that males and females would be equally successful in their use of humor coping (measured by change in CVR and mood) as all participants would be benefiting from the same style of humor (self-directed). Results showed a main effect for the stressor in which participants not exposed to the stressor, demonstrated a pattern of acclimatization as their CVR and mood scores dropped over the course of the experiment. Exposure to the stressor neutralized this tendency causing CVR and mood scores to remain static or rise through the procedure. The humor treatment had no significant effect on any of the stress response measures but did interact with sex as a significant predictor of change in blood pressure.
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