Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Psychology


Social/Personality Psychology

Content Description

1 online resource (iii, 128 pages) : illustrations (some color)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Mark Muraven

Committee Members

Mitchell Earleywine, Ronald S Friedman


Cognitive flexibility, Humor, Incongruity, Mirth, Wit and humor, Adaptability (Psychology), Emotions and cognition

Subject Categories

Experimental Analysis of Behavior | Psychology | Social Psychology


Two studies tested hypotheses regarding the idea that humor promotes cognitive flexibility. Two components of humor are argued to promote cognitive flexibility. First, the positive emotion associated with humor may enhance cognitive flexibility. Second, the processing of humor may exercise complex cognitive processing, thus making similar processing more efficient on subsequent tasks. Participants in Experiment 1 read humorous sentences or one of two types of non-humorous sentences. Participants in Experiment 2 viewed captioned images that varied in the presence of positivity and incongruity. Results of both studies do not support the idea that humor promotes cognitive flexibility, nor do they show evidence that humor promotes cognitive flexibility because of the positive emotion or incongruity associated with it. Explanations for the failure to find support for hypotheses focus on the stimuli used in non-humor conditions and the stimuli and method of measuring cognitive flexibility. Alternative methods of testing the hypotheses are also offered, such as investigating sense of humor as a personality trait, using different types of humor and a different method of measuring cognitive flexibility. This project hoped to provide elementary evidence for the notion that humor is beneficial for health, but did not do so. It is hoped that future research can elucidate the relationship between humor and health.