Does One Ever Really Laugh at One's Own Expense?. The Case of Jews and Arabs in Israel

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Research on self-aimed humor has failed to consider active modes of expression in humor and has used different definitions of self. Contradictions in the findings of previous research have evolved from the diversified definitions. In order to clarify the problem of self-aimed humor, the case of Jews and Arabs in Israel was examined. Two independent samples, each including Jews and Arabs from Israel, participated in two studies. Study 1 dealt with preferences of jokes. Subjects were asked to rate the funniness of five jokes with a Jewish butt and five jokes with an Arab butt. Jews preferred jokes with an Arab butt, as did the Arabs who felt positively toward Israel, but not those whose attitude was negative. Study 2 dealt with the production of humor. Subjects were asked to respond humorously to 13 cartoonlike drawings depicting an Arab and a Jew in conversation. Both Jews and Arabs expressed more aggression toward an Arab butt. When humorous answers toward the respondents themselves and toward subgroups within each group were compared, no differences between Jews and Arabs were found. The only difference found was in a special kind of self-aimed humor, in which aggression is turned inward but the situation is denied, and the subject finds a humorous way to benefit from it. Jews used this kind of humor more often. Implications of results were discussed in relation to other intergroup research and to the question of Jewish humor. Two central dimensions for research of self-aimed humor were specified.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)799-807
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1985

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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