The April beginning always highlights humor, a fundamental aspect of human expression. Friends prepare for mischievous pranks against each other as April Fool’s Day nears. Hilarious memes are spread like wildfire on social media, and the month starts on a lighthearted note. Humour is a joy.

What is humor, then? What psychological underpinnings is this basic form of communication? Is there a variety of styles of humor? Are there different types of humor? Let’s look at the science behind humor and discover its subtleties of it.

What is Humour?

Humour is the ability to recognize or express certain actions or words as funny. Humour can be used as entertainment or to cope with life’s challenges and trials. Humour is often associated with laughter but can also be serious, awkward, or offensive. Humour, in all its forms and styles, is about human connection. It can strengthen and weaken bonds or create new ones.

The Relief Theory of Humour

Anthony Ashley Cooper (7th Earl of Shaftesbury), a British politician, first proposed the Relief Theory in 1709. He did this in an essay. He explains how humor functions as a way to release tension through his writings. Philosophers and psychologists alike have long agreed that laughter can reduce stress, especially in stressful situations.

What kind of humor do you use?

These theories have led to the development of unique styles and motifs for humor. We use four main styles in our everyday lives: Aggressive (Affiliative), Self-Enhancing, and Self-Defeating.

Affiliative Humour

This type of humor is inclusive and often endearing. Affiliative humor’s main goal is to bring people together and help them find humor in everyday situations. This style of humor encourages camaraderie, fellowship, happiness and well-being by finding humor in everyday inconveniences that we all have dealt with.

Aggressive Humour

This type of humor targets someone else and degrades or mocks them. A joke is often made at someone’s expense. The joker is laughing “at” rather than “with” the person. Bullies often use this type of humor. At its worst, aggressive humor can be dangerous and psychologically devastating for the recipient. Research shows that people who see this humor might only laugh to hide their discomfort.

Self-Enhancing Humour

This type of humor is used to cope with stress. Humor directed at yourself in a friendly, innocent manner. This humor is useful for uplifting morale and calming down in difficult situations.

Self-Defeating Humour

This type of humor is often quite unhealthy. Humor directed at oneself in a self-deprecating, demeaning way. Bullies often use this type of humor to stop the joke from being told and make fun of themselves. Psychologically, this type of humor can lead to a loss of self-confidence and self-esteem.

What are the benefits of humor?

After examining the psychological aspects of humor, it is important to examine how humor works in everyday life. What are the real benefits of finding humor and laughing in difficult situations?

Humour’s positive effect on mental health

Humour can be used to release tension. Laughter releases endorphins (feel-good chemicals) that can elevate mood and protect us from negative emotions. Research shows that humor can increase resilience by promoting optimism and positive thinking in difficult situations. Humour has been proven to be a great tool for nurses, who often witness the suffering of others every day.

In the same way, emergency medical personnel who have seen the death of a loved one can benefit from ‘gallows humor’. This humor helps medical personnel recognize that they are not the only ones and builds social cohesion.