Today’s and stress. Stress is a nature

Today’s modern life is full of cares and stress.

Stress is a nature force from external world which affects an individual. In every sphere of life, an individual has to face numerous challenges and fulfill various responsibilities. Humor is something with which we lighten up our each day and helps us to create common grounds with others.

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It gives the person courage and strength to find new sources of meaning and hope even in the times of difficulty and makes a person feel better. Studies have often shown the dual benefits of humor, particularly its ability to increase the experience of positive affect, thus lessening negative reactions to adversity. Evidence also suggests that humor is a successful coping technique that can provide the individual with a more optimistic attitude towards life (Crawford & Caltabiano, 2011). Research has shown that the use of humor to cope with stress predicted a significant decrement in depressive symptoms as well as stressful experiences (Ward & Kennedy, 2001).            HUMORThe Oxford English Dictionary (Simpson and Weiner 1989) has defined humor as the “quality of action, speech, or writing which excites amusement,” which is “the faculty of perceiving what is ludicrous or amusing, or of expressing it in speech, writing, or other composition; jocose imagination or treatment of a subject”. Martin et al. (2003) defines humor style as a person’s habitual way of using humor in daily life, that is, one’s typical and stable pattern of humor behaviors and attitudes Humor is one of the most important and effective human qualities which brightens one’s life with enjoyment, positivity and light-heartedness. Engaging in humor has the power of making everyone around feel happy and elicits positive mood in them.

It has the power with which every situation can be influenced positively. Every individual has one’s own way of using humor. It can be manifested either in an adaptive way or maladaptive way. A model of humor has been proposed by Martin et al. (2003).

The model describes four humor styles, two of which are positive or beneficial to the self or others, and two that are negative or detrimental to the self or others. The two positive humor styles are referred as affiliative and self-enhancing, whereas the two negative humor styles as self-defeating and aggressive. The following are the humor styles (Martin et al., 2003)·         Affiliative Humor – People who have an affiliative humor style essentially use humor to attain interpersonal or social rewards. That is, they amuse and entertain others in order to enhance the quality of social relationships. Since the use of such humor affirms both the self and others, it is linked with increased intimacy in social relationships (Martin et al., 2003), greater conflict resolution (Campbell et al., 2008), etc.

·         Self-enhancing Humor – People who have a self-enhancing humor style use humor to achieve intrapersonal rewards, that is, to enhance or maintain positive psychological well-being. They maintain a humorous outlook on life, coping with difficult circumstances by viewing them from a humorous perspective (Ford et al., 2014). ·         Aggressive Humor – The use of aggressive humor is intended to put others down by using sarcasm, teasing and ridicule.

It is the tendency to use humor for the purpose of criticizing or manipulating others, say funny things that are likely to hurt or alienate others. It is excessively critical and ridiculing of one’s self and attempts to amuse others by doing or saying funny things at one’s own expense (Martin et al., 2003; Kazarian & Martin, 2004).·         Self-defeating Humor – Individuals using self-defeating humor style allow themselves to be the “butt” of jokes in the hopes of gaining others’ approval and acceptance and is used to enhance relationships with others, but at the expense of positive feelings about self (Kuiper & Leite, 2010).

Such individuals may struggle to increase their self-esteem through relationships.Perceived StressTracing the history of the concept of stress, its origin dates back to 1914, when Cannon used the term “stress” in the field of medicine. The term ‘stress’ describes the physical, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral responses to events that are appraised as threatening or challenging. It has typically been used to refer both to the adjustive demands placed on an organism and to the organism’s internal biological and psychological responses to such demands. Adjustive demands are referred to as stressors; the effects they create within an organism as stress; and the efforts to deal with stress as Coping strategies.

Stress is a by-product of poor or inadequate coping (Carson et al., 2008).According to Cohen, Kamarck and Mermelstein (1983), perceived stress refers to the degree to which the situations in a person’s life are appraised as stressful.According to Phillips (2013), perceived stress has been referred to as those feelings or thoughts an individual has about how much stress they are experiencing at a given point of time.Humor and Perceived StressMany theorists believed that humor serves a purpose that is vitally important for survival.

In a study conducted by An et al. (2007), it was posited that Humor has the effect of calming anger, resolves tension arising from the conflicts of relationships, and plays an essential role in promoting personal relationships through relieving stress caused by personal relationships. Therefore it becomes important to understand humor styles in relation to stress.Rowe & Regehr (2010), in a study, found that  individuals working in highly stressful occupations often employ humor to relieve tension, vent their feelings, and cope with stress in various settings. In view of Mauriello and McConatha (2007), humor can relieve stress and enhance mood, in the same way as physical exercise can.

People having a well-developed sense of humor have a better ability to distance themselves from stress-related problems and engage in more varied coping mechanisms, such as active problem-solving. In a study conducted on 182 participants, the associations between humor styles and perceptions of stress were investigated. On the basis of the findings of previous literature, it was expected that adaptive humor styles would be inversely related to perceptions of stress, while maladaptive humor styles would be positively related to perceptions of stress. The results were found to be in the expected direction with one major exception. Affiliative humor was not found to be significantly correlated with perceptions of stress. According to the researchers, it was assumed that the function of affiliative humor was to build social relationships which may not be a strong buffer against the perception of stress. A higher score on aggressive humor was correlated with a higher score on perceptions of stress.Gender differences in Humor Styles and Perceived StressIn a study conducted by Matud (2004), gender differences in stress were explored.

The study was conducted on a sample of 2816 individuals within the age range of 18 and 65 years, out of which 1566 were women and 1250 were men. Results of the study revealed that females scored significantly higher than males in chronic stress and minor daily stressors. There were no differences in the number of life events experienced by both males and females in the previous two years, still females rated their life events in a more negative way and as being less controllable in comparison to males. Chan, Chen and Proyer (2009) conducted a study on a Chinese sample and found that males preferred aggressive humor. On the other hand, females were found to prefer affiliative humor with which they can improve their interpersonal relationships.

According to American Psychological Association (2011), women report more stress in comparison to men. There are different ways in which men and women manage their stressful experiences. In addition, they place different level of importance to managing their stress. It has been found that men are less concerned about managing their stress levels, whereas women place more emphasis on managing their stress levels but they feel that they are unable to do it effectively. On the basis of a survey, it was found that men were less likely than women to report that stress has a very strong impact on a their health (78 percent vs. 88 percent). Moreover, they were more likely than women to report that their own stress has slight or no impact on their physical and or mental health.

 Statement of the ProblemThe aim of the present investigation was to study gender differences in humor styles and perceived stress among college students. HYPOTHESESBased on the review of literature, the following hypothesis has been proposed:1.      Gender differences are expected in humor styles and perceived stress.

2.      Adaptive humor styles (Affiliative humor and Self-enhancing humor) are expected to be negatively related with Perceived Stress, whereas Maladaptive humor styles (Aggressive humor and Self-defeating humor) are expected to be positively related with Perceived Stress.SampleThe sample of the study comprised of 150 college students (75 males, 75 females) from various colleges of Chandigarh in the age range of 18 – 23 years. Tests And Tools Used1.      Humor Styles Questionnaire (HSQ; Martin et al. 2003)2.

      The Perceived Stress Scale (PSS; Cohen et al. 1983)Statistical AnalysisDescriptive Statistics i.e. Means, Standard Deviations (SD’s) were calculated. t-test was used to compare male and female college students on humor and stress. intercorrelational analysis was also done to study the relationship between humor styles and perceived stress.Results and DiscussionThe aim of the present investigation was to study humor styles in relation to perceived stress. For this purpose, a sample of 100 college students (50 males, 50 females) in the age range of 18 – 23 years was selected from various colleges in Chandigarh.

The sample was administered the Humor Styles Questionnaire (HSQ; Martin et al. 2003) and the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS; Cohen et al. 1983).The raw scores were analyzed using appropriate statistical analyses viz. Descriptive Statistics and t-test. Table 1 shows means, standard deviations and t-ratios comparing male and female college students.

The comparison revealed the following t-ratios to be significant. Females scored higher on Affiliative and Self-enhancing humor (t=2.23, p<.05 and 4.

89, p<.01 respectively) than males; and males scored higher on Aggressive and Self-defeating humor (t= 3.10 and 5.

10 respectively, p<.01). Thus, the hypothesis stating significant gender differences in humor styles has been upheld. The results were highly significant and in accordance with the past research. There were no significant gender differences found in perceived stress among college students. In a study conducted by Liu et al. (2012), it was found that males use more aggressive humor styles than females. Studies have shown that males tend to score significantly higher than females on the two maladaptive humor styles.

These finding suggests that men are more likely to prefer using negative humor styles than their female counterparts (Martin et al. 2003). This shows that humor has a differential role to play in both the genders.

Correlational analysis was done to study the relationship of Humor styles with Perceived Stress. Table 2 shows the Intercorrelational matrix for the Total sample. The results revealed that in the total sample, Adaptive humor styles (Affiliative and Self-enhancing) were negatively related to Perceived Stress.

Affiliative humor (r = .26, p<.01) and Self-enhancing humor (r = .

26, p<.01) were found to be negatively related to Perceived stress. Maladaptive huor styles (Aggressive humor and Self-defeating) were positively related to Perceived Stress (r= .33 and .42 respectively, p<.01).

Thus, the hypothesis stating the negative relationship of Adaptive humor styles with Perceived Stress; and positive relationship of Maladaptive humor styles with Perceived Stress have been upheld. In a study conducted by Besser et al. (2012), it was contended that both forms of Maladaptive humor styles can be expected to be associated with failure to regulate stress and has been associated with increased distress. Therefore, the result is in line with previous researches.Table 3 shows the Intercorrelational matrix for female college students. Among female college students, Affiliative humor and Self-enhancing humor were found to be negatively related with Perceived Stress (r= .12 and .13 respectively).

Aggressive humor and Self-defeating humor were also negatively related with Perceived Stress (r= .34 and .39 respectively, p<.05). Thus, for female college students, the hypothesis stating the negative relationship of Adaptive humor styles with Perceived Stress has been upheld; whereas the hypothesis stating the positive relationship of Maladaptive humor styles with Perceived Stress has not been upheld.

Table 4 shows the Intercorrelational matrix for male college students. Among male college students, Affiliative humor and Self-enhancing humor were found to be negatively related with Perceived Stress (r= .30, p<05 and .18 respectively).

Aggressive humor and Self-defeating humor were also positively related with Perceived Stress (r= .02 and .45, p<.01 respectively). Thus, for male college students, the hypothesis stating negative relationship of Adaptive humor styles with Perceived Stress has been partly upheld. The hypothesis stating positive relationship of Maladaptive humor styles with Perceived Stress has been upheld.

A glimpse at the results show that females tend to use Adaptive humor styles which results in decreased Perceived Stress. Males were found to use Maladaptive humor styles which makes them prone to stressful experiences in their life. In a study by Kalliny, Cruthirds and Minor (2006), on Arabs and Americans, humor styles were examined. It was found that men tend to use more aggressive humor in comparison to women in both Arab and American cultures. An explanation put forth for these gender differences was that men were expected to be assertive, tough, and focused on material success, while women were expected to be more modest, tender, and concerned with quality of life.Gender differences havebeen found in humor styles. It has been found that females make more use ofadaptive styles of humor to deal with stressful situations, whereas males makemore use of maladaptive styles of humor. However, the present results showedthat males were more likely than women to endorse and appreciate aggressive andself-defeating humor styles.

Humor literature supports the view that there aredifferences in the meaning of humor for males and females (Crawford & Gressley, 1991). Wong (2010), in a study, positedthat males consider themselves to be more humorous than females. Men havehigher likelihood to joke and tease than women. Women like to act in anappreciative way and rather be a listener to the jokes. They are less likely toproduce humor by themselves (Freud,1905). It is probably because males use aggressive humor as a means toachieve their status even if it is at the expense of other people (Kazarian and Martin 2004).

Researchhas shown that women tend to look for intimacy, whereas men tend to seekself-presentation (Tannen, 1986). One of the reasons ofthese gender differences in the use of humor styles can be attributed to theability among males to make jokes or funny comments in an attempt tomomentarily outwit or embarrass the other person as one of the major ways of gainingstatus. Males are more likely to use humor as a defensive and supportive toolin order to keep their masculine identity intact (Barnes, 2012). Inaddition, this disparity can be explained in terms of social support. Aggressivehumor is related to higher levels of social support from groups of males thanfemales. Amongst males, aggressive or hostile humor was considered morebehaviorally appropriate and elicits reactions similar to that of affiliativehumor.

For groups of women, aggressive humor was less accepted and may bemisinterpreted as hostility. Therefore, aggressive humor was perceived as lessmaladaptive in men than in women (Dyckand Holtzman, 2013). Holmes (2006) also posited that women’s humor isstrongly correlated with positive humor, while men’s humor is correlated withnegative humorPrevious studies haveaccentuated the role of humor in buffering stress.

In a study conducted by Romero & Cruthirds (2006), it wasfound that humor makes people feel that they are not afraid; without fear theyfeel a greater sense of control, which is incompatible with feeling stress. Ina study conducted by Wooten (1996,2000), it was proposed that humor is a quality of perception that enablesus to experience joy even when faced with adversity. After a spate of laughter,there is a decrease in the level of stress hormones, cortisol and epinephrine,which are immunosuppressive and become elevated in the response to stress.Thus, the decrease in these hormone levels in response to humor can enhance theimmune system.Theprofile of female college students scoring high on adaptive humor styles andbeing negatively correlated with Perceived Stress, thus, validates the presentexpectations.  Research has also shownadaptive humor styles to be positively correlated with many positive outcomesviz.

increased well-being, optimism, happiness, etc. it can be suggested thathumor may play a valuable role in counseling. Counselors may introduce humor toincrease rapport between counselor and client, reduce client resistance,explore emotions, lessen stressful situations, enhance well-being, optimism,happiness and perceived health status. School and college students can also betaught to cultivate adaptive humor styles and the way in which humor can beused as a coping strategy. This shall help them deal with their life situationseffectively. 


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