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Aggressive and Harmless Humor

  • By: Megan Strain
  • In: Encyclopedia of Humor Studies
  • Edited by: Salvatore Attardo
  • Subject:General Media, Communication & Cultural Studies, Sociology of Culture

Within the area of humor research, there are two broad characterizations of humor that are studied in terms of their interpersonal and intrapersonal outcomes. One characterization, harmless humor, is good natured and usually results in positive outcomes (e.g., enjoyable social interaction). The other characterization, aggressive humor, is used with malicious intent and is much more likely to result in negative outcomes (e.g., disparagement) than harmless humor. This entry discusses the basic information that is known about both of these broad types of humor and addresses some of the potential outcomes associated with each.

Harmless Humor

The term harmless humor is somewhat ambiguous in its conceptualization. It may be used colloquially to describe light-hearted joking among friends, family, or colleagues. While these behaviors have been the subject ...

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