Humor appreciation in children: Individual differences and response sets

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This study examined the neglected role of individual differences and response sets in studies of children's humor appreciation. Both observed mirth, and subjective ratings of cartoons were obtained from children 10–14 years old. Nonfunny cartoons were included to control for response tendencies. Funny cartoons included cartoons of different difficulty levels. Results showed that subjective appreciation ratings were significantly confounded with a general response set. Moreover, age and sex were related to this response tendency: girls rated control cartoons higher than boys; younger children rated them higher than older children. Humor appreciation ratings appeared to decline with age in part because of increasing discrimination. Mirth, measured unobtrusively, was not as influenced by this response tendency. Instead, smiling and laughter responses were more related to individual differences: boys, children with greater intellectual ability, and children with higher socioeconomic status showed more mirth. Both mirth and subjective ratings were related to comprehension of the cartoons as well as to their difficulty level. In support of the cognitive-congruency hypothesis, children with better comprehension and higher IQ preferred more difficult cartoons that were still comprehensible to them. © 1989 Mouton de Gruyter

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)365-384
Number of pages20
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1989


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