‘That’s not funny!’ Standing up against disparaging humor
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The current article addresses bystander action to confront disparaging humor as a form of moral courage. We ask: When is disparaging humor seen as harmless fun or as a pernicious form of prejudice? What are the social and psychological processes through which bystanders confront, evade, or collaborate in disparaging humor? Three experiments (Ns = 95, 213, 220), involving a novel paradigm (‘the shared media paradigm’) test the role of bystander emotional responses (anger/amusement) in shaping action to confront disparagement humor, through emotion-based social influence. Study 1 demonstrates that bystander action to confront disparagement humor as prejudice is shaped by the angry (but not amused) responses of co-present others. Study 2 considers a moderator of the influence process: the role of one’s own emotional reaction to disparagement humor (angry/amused). Bystander confrontation was more intense when one’s own angry reaction was validated by that of other bystanders but there was otherwise mixed evidence that the two interacted to promote collaboration/confrontation. Study 3 tests the claim that disparagement humor is especially challenging to confront because humor disarms opposition. Intergroup commentary was seen as more amusing and confrontation was more strongly resisted when humor was used (vs. a non-humorous control remark). Overall, the results show that the reactions of bystanders play an important role in shaping what is (or is not) perceived to be prejudice. Courageous action to confront the disparagement of members of minority groups is enabled by the emotional signals of others who are co-present.
Thomas , E , McGarty , C , Spears , R , Livingstone , A , Platow , M , Lala , G & Mavor , K 2020 , ' ‘That’s not funny!’ Standing up against disparaging humor ' , Journal of Experimental Social Psychology , vol. 86 , 103901 . https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2019.103901
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
Copyright © 2019 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. This work has been made available online in accordance with publisher policies or with permission. Permission for further reuse of this content should be sought from the publisher or the rights holder. This is the author created accepted manuscript following peer review and may differ slightly from the final published version. The final published version of this work is available at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2019.103901
DescriptionThis research was supported by an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DE120101029) to the first author, and a Murdoch University Distinguished Collaborator Award to the third author.
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