The definition of humor has puzzled scholars as it is defined differently by different individuals. Others define it as a distinctive medium of communication in which individuals convey information at the time of interaction, while others define it as a response, disposition, and stimulus. As a stimulus, it is any communication intended to provoke smiling or laughter. As a response, humor is the amount of smiling or laughter seen in a situation. Humor comes naturally to individuals (Cann & Collette, 2014). Infants of three months develop the ability to appreciate humor, particularly from unexpected stimuli, and that occurs in a safe setting. It improves social influence through the process of enhancing how much an individual is liked. Various psychologists point out that the sense of humor is mostly a coping mechanism to assist people in getting through difficult situations. In learning, appropriate humor improves learning experiences when used correctly. Positive humor in the classroom increases group cohesion.
Humor is utilized in crisis to provide perspective and assist people in dealing with the stress and emotional turmoil that they are experiencing; it can be beneficial for all leaders who are currently dealing with the Corona pandemic. The assistance is through its ability to enable individuals to develop a clear insight into problem-solving and decision-making abilities. Humor plays an essential role as a communication tool in a time of crisis, in learning, and within organizations. It is, therefore, essential for individuals, managers, leaders, and learning actors to incorporate humor into their communication skills to enable them to solve the crisis when it arises (Cann & Collette, 2014). In dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, humor is a great tool that assists in looking at the virus in a positive way that will enable people all over the world to deal with the pandemic. It inspires hope, lightens the burden of the virus, keeps people grounded, alert, and focused. Humor is considered as a defense mechanism for difficult or stressful times as it can bring color to darkness and put a smile on people's faces in crises, and at the same time, it can be infectious.
The paper examines humor in a crisis as it is considered to be a two-edged with more emphasis on negativity caused by humor in times of crisis like the current COVID-19 pandemic. Before the use of humor in times of crisis is examined, the paper first discusses the theories of humor to understand it better; then it looks at the humor and learning and humor and leadership. It concludes with a summary of all the paper outlines.
Theories of Humor
Researchers have proposed various theories of humor. The theories fall into one of three broad theoretical perspectives. It includes relief theories, superiority theories, and incongruity theories. Out of all such theories, no one theory explains humor comprehensively (Ridanpaa, 2019). The superiority theories hold that the origin of humor is one's feelings of the superiority perceived on another or over a previous situation. One of the theories of superiority is derision theory, which holds that humor is caused by a sudden act of an individual that pleases them, or it is caused by apprehension of deformation of a particular thing in another. From a superiority perspective, more researchers deal with disparaging, self-deprecating, and aggressive humor that elevates people above the target of humor.
On incongruity theories, the perspective addresses the cognitive processes which are involved in reacting to incongruities and perceiving humor. Researchers have taken two directions in studying this perspective, where the first direction holds that humor comes from the surprising encounter of an incongruity itself. The second direction is the incongruity-resolution theory, which considers humor as a reaction that discovers the existence of a relation between two incongruous elements, where an individual who does not get a joke may not have made the connection between the two aspects.
The relief theories encompass various theories that fall into physiological and psychological domains. It is believed in the relief perspective that humor is a release of unused or repressed energy. It is outlined that humor is an outlet for nervous energy, particularly aggressive and sexual inhibitions. Humor raises an individual to a state of arousal that results in pressure so that the arousal is balanced and the individual laughs.
The three groups of theories explained are not exhaustive, but they represent the majority of humor research, as many scholars agree that each perspective is essential to a comprehensive humor theory.
Humor and Learning
In learning, positive humor can be more beneficial. It creates a positive learning environment as it elicits a positive effect on students, which then creates an enjoyable and pleasant learning environment. It improves retention in students by activating the dopamine reward system in the brain, stimulates long-term memory, and goal-oriented motivation, which in turn enhances retention in the students of all ages. Most teachers know that humor is inherently social, and the nature of humor is that it builds a sense of community naturally through its ability to lower defenses and bring individuals together (Bryant & Zillmann, 2014). Humor activates the student's sense of wonder, which is where learning starts, and in this way, humor improves student's retention of what is taught in the classroom. With a positive learning environment triggered by humor, anxiety in students is reduced while studying difficult subjects as it makes learners feel comfortable in communicating in-person or online classes.
Also, humor increases student's interest and attention as it leads to psychological arousal, which transforms a learner who is inattentive into a moderately attentive learner; thus, it facilitates performance. It also improves student-instructor relationships as it can reduce the psychological distance that exists between the learner and instructor. (Bryant & Zillmann, 2014)Argued that humor contributes mainly to the notion that an instructor is approachable, which then increases learning interactions to a more meaningful relationship.
Humor aids learning and enhances recall when added to instruction in lab experiments. Students or learners, in general, can recall humorous information compared to non-humorous information. Lectures that use humor will have increased test scores when compared to lectures that lack humor treatment. Humor also increases divergent thinking skills, which relate to the ability of humor to improve creativity. In the process of creativity, divergent thinking is utilized to produce a variety of different responses that look illogical, incompatible, and adventurous. Divergent thinking is enhancing with the use of humor as it creates a fun environment and mood that encourages unusual responses. Through viewing humorous materials and study objects, learners are more likely to model a humorous logic.
Humor and Leadership
Humor is an essential aspect that managers and leaders have to use in their organizational setting as it is a tool by which people in organizations attempt to achieve functional ends. In organizations, leaders utilize humor within-group processes as a form of communication. Leaders must be in a position to know the functional nature of humor so that they can use it appropriately and effectively (Cooper, 016). Leaders can utilize the valuable functions of humor on communication functions as it pervades contemporary organizations, and it is always present in task-oriented meetings. Leaders need to understand the types of humor behaviors they can use in interacting with individuals and groups.
Getting individuals to loosen up is a therapist or a comedian's job. Still, with a pandemic that is upon us currently, world leaders should be vigilant concerning the emotional needs of individuals as it is taxing for the leaders to work in isolation. Leaders have to keep their followers focused and engaged as humor can lubricate the corona or any other crisis in aa manner that enables individuals, even if for a moment, to forget about the prevailing crisis. The burdens of a crisis should not stop leaders from indulging in humor.
Leaders should take a step in expanding personal knowledge concerning humor through immersion, which assists in learning to utilize humor more appropriately. The importance of humor in leadership can be seen in its functions in facilitating communication in organizations and its use in group interaction (Cooper, 2016). Humor is a socially facilitated phenomenon as it occurs mostly in the presence of other individuals. In organizations, humor can be a two-edged tool as it is both potentially integrative and disruptive behavior as it assists and, at the same time, hurts interaction. Positively, humor is playful, and it develops a friendship, which correlates positively to communication competence.
Leaders and managers in organizations can use humor to cope mechanism for managing embarrassment and anxiety through the diversion of attention from some situations that causes discomfort. Also, humor can be utilized to distant stressful, boring, and unpleasant parts of the organizational environment.
Humor in Times of Crisis
Humor is one of the most potent and healthiest methods to assist in providing perspective on difficult experiences of life, and it is always shared at the time of crisis. During the time of crisis, humor is most experienced and perceived by people immersed in the crisis as hurtful or insensitive (Ridanpaa, 2019). It is well understood that humor that is aimed at an individual is received well by others as when a person is on target of personal humor, other individuals will share such humor but are not injured or threatened at all. Also, a humor that is targeted at certain situations is generally appreciated by other people because it does not target a particular group or individual. On the other hand, a humor that is aimed at specific groups or specific individuals may be harmful and are not received well as it is always degrading, insult, or put down another person or group of people.
In a crisis, humor is often two-edged. It is both positive and negative in varying situations. Humor assists in placing a crisis in perspective and assist in making the crisis more manageable. The positive side of humor in times of crisis only works when it is performed at the right time to people who are immersed in the crisis, and they type of humor to be used need to be chosen carefully (McGraw et al., 2014). Humor should be used when it is known that the person in crisis is receptive to the humor interventions, and the person instituting the humor should be more sensitive. In times of crisis, humor acts as social support in dealing with the crisis as it relieves tension and stress in the face of a crisis. It mitigates the effects of the crisis, and in an incident like corona, humor reduces the feelings of sorrow, grief, and helplessness for those lost their loved ones.
The negativity of humor in a crisis is on the psychology of how people respond to the crisis. During a crisis, psychologically, the people involved in the crisis are probably to integrate the crisis at hand into their internal emotional being. Thus, psychologically, it means that individuals usually merge their inner emotional state with crisis experience as they are not able to separate the emotional experience of a crisis from an inner emotional self.
For the individuals who are in some distance from the crisis, they are less likely to encounter the merging of crises and themselves. Therefore, such indivi...
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