Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

A Factor-Analytic Study of the Multidimensional Sense of Humor Scale with a Portuguese Sample

Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

A Factor-Analytic Study of the Multidimensional Sense of Humor Scale with a Portuguese Sample

Article excerpt

Sense of humor has been recognized as an important adaptive mechanism as well as a great strength in dealing with adversity. Individual sense of humor is a multidimensional construct, intimately connected with peoples' well-being. The purpose of this paper is to validate the use of the Multidimensional Sense of Humor Scale (MSHS) with a Portuguese sample using the principal components factor analysis with Varimax rotation and a correlational analysis. Our findings support a five-factor model in understanding the dimensions of personal sense of humor.


Humor has an important role in human lives and has long been recognized as an important mechanism used by individuals to manage difficult situations. Sense of humor is a construct that appears intimately connected to well-being; it is a complex phenomenon of a clearly individual nature, and has been studied from psychological, physiological and anthropological perspectives, but without a universal understanding of the underlying construct (Astedt-Kurki & Liukkonen, 1994; Hesbeen, 1997; Houston, Mckee, Carrol & Marsh, 1998; Yarcheski, Mahon & Yarcheski, 2002).

Various studies in the research literature indicate that individuals who self identify as having a sense of humor or consider themself humorous may possess a mental attitude that predisposes living a longer life (Moody, 1979; Yoder & Haude, 1995). Sense of humor enlarges perspective on the world and gives an inner perspective about oneself (Montagu, 1983, quoted by Simon, 1988; Thorson & Powell, 1993a).

The existence of a sense of humor has been shown to be a sign of good adaptation (Verdeau-Pailles In Roux & Laharie, 1998). Indeed, Poon, Martin, Clayton, Messner, Noble & Johnson (1992) have observed that people who age successfully possess a strong sense of humor. Therefore, humor has an important role in peoples' lives, helping them to live better and to deal with day-to-day adversities (Holden, 1993; Moody, 1979; Robinson, 1991).

Humor is a kind of communication, a way for individuals to express themselves that conveys other things beyond what it seems to mean. Humor plays with words, making language convey messages that are understood to have a secondary or hidden meaning. It is a way to look at oneself honestly without being serious, of assessing oneself and experiencing pleasure. On a psychological level, use of humor is beneficial in promoting relationships, increasing self-esteem and relieving stress and anxiety (Astedt-Kurki & Isola, 2001; Bauer & Geront, 1999; Beck, 1997; Buffum & Brod, 1998; Johnson, 2002; Moran & Massan, 1999; Savage & Canody, 1999; Sheldon, 1996). In addition, humor may provide a positive reference to help individuals deal with deception, loss, sorrow, guilt, and to strengthen their self-esteem (Astedt-Kurki & Liukkonen, 1994).

Humor has been used to lessen social distance between individuals, helping them to lose some inhibitions, for example in procedures and examinations in the context of health care (Robinson, 1991; Wooten, 2002).

Joking about rectal examinations and other procedures occurs frequently, both among males and females. The awkwardness of the position and preliminary preparation can be occasions for humor. A patient who had had a series of enemas prior to a colonoscopy was asked, "How was it?" She sighed and shook her head and said, "Enemies, enemies, enemies!" (Robinson, 1991, p. 57)

Snyder (1985) suggests that humor used cleverly creates a relaxing environment, encourages communication in sensitive areas, helps to encourage awareness of conflicts and serves as a mechanism to reduce the use of strict and formal social styles. To have a sense of humor and to use it results, therefore, in a great way to communicate and interact as a tool that is available to us in both personal and professional relationships (Wender, 1996).

When seeking to understand the elements of humor, it may be difficult to differentiate the cognitive response (to understand a joke) from the affective response (laughter; well-being). …

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