It’s Only Funny If We Say It: The Intergroup Sensitivity Effect and the Reception of Disparagement Humor

Thai, M. (University of Queensland), Borgella, A. M. (Bates College), Sanchez, M. S. (Griffith University)

Three studies aimed to assess whether the intergroup sensitivity effect emerges for disparagement humor, such that a disparaging joke would be received more positively if the source of the joke is part of the group being disparaged than if they are not a member of the disparaged group. In Study 1, participants examined a straight or gay source making either a disparaging joke targeting gay people or a non-disparaging joke. In Study 2, participants examined a White, Black or Asian source making a disparaging joke targeting Asian people. In Study 3, participants evaluated how generally acceptable it was for members of different social groups to make certain disparaging jokes. In all three studies, the intergroup sensitivity effect emerged. Participants evaluated disparaging humor more favorably if the source belonged to the group being disparaged than if they did not. These findings extend the intergroup sensitivity effect to the domain of disparagement humor.

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Person Perception and Stereotyping