When should you use self-deprecating humor?


When you’re powerful:

This study explores the adaptive functions and design features of self- and other-deprecating humor. Sixty-four female and 32 male college students participated in a two-part study. In the first part, we examined the relationships among participant demographics, personality traits, and preferences for producing different types of humor. Men report using more other-deprecating humor than women do, and the use of other-deprecating humor decreases with age for both sexes. In the second part of the study, each participant listened to tape recordings of opposite-sex people who were described as having different levels of status, and who produced different types of humor; then participants rated each person’s attractiveness as a potential short-term and long-term mate. Humor type and presenter status had no effects on short-term attractiveness, but self-deprecating humor by high-status presenters (but not low-status presenters) increased long-term attractiveness for both sexes. These results are discussed in the light of sexual selection theory and costly signaling theory.

Source: “Dissing Oneself versus Dissing Rivals: Effects of Status, Personality, and Sex on the Short-Term and Long-Term Attractiveness of Self-Deprecating and Other-Deprecating Humor” from Evolutionary Psychology – 2008. 6(3): 393-408

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