Positive Effects of Humor in Persuasion

Persuasion Techniques
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Anneke Zwart
Student (University), Netherlands

Positive Effects of Humor in Persuasion

J. Lyttle (2001) studied the effectiveness of humor in persusasion and predicts 4 ways in which humor might be effective in persuasion:
1. Positive moods: According to persuasion theory, people in a positive mood are more likely to agree with persuasive information; they rely more often on heuristics factors. Humor can improve the efficiency of persuasive messages, because humor produces such positive moods.
2. Liking for the source: Choosing the right type of humor can increase the effectiveness of persuasion if choosing that embodies a shared sense of humor with identical underlying values. As an example, cartoons seem to be preferred by students and in textbook the underlying value is a relaxed learning environment; in this way cartoon humor raise the effectiveness in the case of students.
3. Blocking counterarguments: Humor seems to distract people who receive persuasive messages from creating counter arguments. In this way a persuasive message is more likely to be accepted when using humor.
4. Trust in the source: In this case it is about self-effacing humor. The idea is that people who speak against their own self- interest are perceived as more credible. In this case, using self-effacing humor increases credibility of the source, which in turn creates strong persuasive advantages.
What do you think about these effects that humor can have on persuasive messages? Can there also be any negative effects of humor on persuasion?
Source: Lyttle, J. (2001) “The Effectiveness of Humor in Persuasion: The Case of Business Ethics Training” The Journal of General Psychology Vol. 128:2 pp 206-216


Jaap de Jonge
Editor, Netherlands

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Note that the use of humor in trying to persuade an audience or a person can also have negative effe... Sign up


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