Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Grotberg, Edith H. (Edith Henderson), 1918-2008||James, William Homer

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


Anxiety; Wit and humor--Psychology


The present study reports the relationship between anxiety and induced tension and their effect on the appreciation and response to humor stimuli. Eighty subjects were selected from a large introductory psychology class on the basis of anxiety scores as measured by the Taylor Manifest Anxiety Scale. Selected for the study were the 40 students with the highest anxiety scores and the 40 students with the lowest anxiety scores. One half of each anxiety group was randomly placed in either a success or failure group. Groups were equated for sex differences. Jokes were selected by the Thurstone technique from a general pooling of jokes which were presented to a large group of judges for rating. The jokes included in the study were divided into two forms comprising the humor stimulus. Form I served to obtain a base rating of humor for each subject, under normal conditions, and Form II was presented to the subjects after an experimental task in which subjects either succeeded or failed. The analysis of the data was conducted by the analysis of variance of difference scores between Form I and Form II, and by the analysis of covariance in which the base measure of humor was held constant while the effects of the success—failure task on the subsequent humor rating was evaluated. The results of the data revealed that the preceding experience of success had significant effects upon the subsequent rating of jokes. That is, the success group for both levels of anxiety significantly differed from the failure groups (P< .05). The results showed that no significant differences existed between high anxiety and low anxiety groups which were assumed to represent high and low drive groups within a Hullian framework. This was interpreted to be nonsupportive of the tension-reduction hypothesis of humor. It was also noted that sex is not a significant influence in the appreciation of humor and need not be controlled in future studies. Exception to this, however, would be in the case of children and with humor stimuli having sexual themes.


Includes bibliographical references.


ix, 66 pages




Northern Illinois University

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