Ingroup and Outgroup Members' Laughter and its Influence on Appraisals of Humor on Aging and Attitudes toward Older Adults
AuthorMoulton, Shane R.
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Testing competing hypotheses based on the Social Identity approach and the outgroup moral authority approach; the present research examined the role of social influence in shaping responses to age-based humor. The Social Identity approach predicted that ingroup member reactions (laughter vs. nonlaughter) to the same humor should have a stronger influence in shaping humor appraisals than the reactions of outgroup members. Conversely, the outgroup moral authority approach predicted that members of the group targeted by the humor--older adults--would exert the strongest social influence, particularly on the responses of younger adults. Hypotheses were tested using an online experiment that exposed older and younger adults to comedic performances in which jokes about older adults were accompanied by the laughing or nonlaughing reactions of either older or younger audiences. Humor type was also varied as it was hypothesized that age-disparaging humor would invite more social influence than nondisparaging humor. Participants were exposed to both a male and female comedian delivering disparaging or nondisparaging humor about older adults. Two hundred and fifty-eight older adults (65-85 years) and 268 younger adults (18-35 years) participated in a 2 (Audience Age) x 2 (Audience Reaction) x 2 (Participant Age Group) x 2 (Humor Type) x 2 (Comedian Sex) mixed-model experiment with the last being a repeated-measures factor. Participants watched two comedians telling age-related jokes, and completed measures of humor funniness/ comedian likability, humor offensiveness, humor PCness, and humor repeatability. Participants also completed measures of Age Group Identification, Social Dominance Orientation, and Public Self-Consciousness, which were examined as moderators of experimental effects. Finally, participants responded to a measure of attitudes toward older adults. Results did not uniformly support either theoretical perspective, though differential reactions from older audiences had a somewhat greater influence on older and younger participants' humor appraisals than did reactions from younger audiences. Individual difference analyses yielded mixed results. Moreover, participants exposed to older audiences laughing at the humor reported more positive post-humor attitudes toward older adults than those who saw the same audiences not laughing. Findings are discussed in terms of competing motives that are often inherent in ambiguous intergroup settings.