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Completed research project

Title / Titel The joyful face may hide an evil mind: Individual differences in fearing laughter
PDF Abstract (PDF, 14 KB)
Summary / Zusammenfassung Recently, the fear of being laughed at as an individual differences phenomenon has gained interest (see Proyer & Ruch, 2010; Ruch, 2009). Researchers worked on its definition, psychometric assessment, and verification in 73 nations. Initial validity studies in the fields of personality, intelligence, character, and humour etc. gave a broader picture of this phenomenon. Two salient findings were that those who fear being laughed at misinterpret even friendly laughter as neutral to hostile (Platt, 2008; Ruch, Altfreder, & Proyer, 2009) when being confronted with them in a variety of settings. Furthermore, the interplay of three emotions seems to be relevant: those who fear being laughed at not only seem to be characterized by their expected inclination to high shame and fear, but also by low joy (Platt & Ruch, 2009). These findings encourage the conducting of more precise studies aimed at illuminating the mechanisms of the fear of being laughed at. Questions to be addressed include the following: Are they low in all different facets of joy/happiness or is this restricted to laughter-related situations? Is mimicry and emotional contagion of positive affect from others impaired (as seen in FACS coding of the Duchenne display), and do they experience a lower increase in positive mood when interacting with a happy person? Can they derive pleasure and enjoyment from a variety of social and non-social activities of generally positive hedonic tone? Do they fear or dislike laughter only in negative or ambiguous social situations or can this effect be observed when they judge different types of smile and laughter in solitude. Working hypothesis: The proposed set of studies pursues two main hypotheses: (a) individuals with high fear of being laughed at will misinterpret the benevolent nature of joyful smiling and laughter (i.e., Duchenne displays with or without vocalizations) be it in still photographs or video-clips of laughing persons) and react more aversively to negatively motivated smiling and laughter (i.e., contempt smiles, scornful laughter) even when the social context is removed. Furthermore, (b) while they particularly can not appreciate smiling and laughter among others and joy is not contagious for them, it is expected that their general experience of positive (hedonic) stimuli is not impaired (or much less so). Study design: Four studies will be conducted. Individual differences in the fear of being laughed at will be assessed by a well-validated questionnaire. The behaviour of the high and low scorers will be studied under experimentally controlled situations. Participants will be confronted with photos representing different types of smiles (Study 1) and video clips (closeups of face, or full body) of different types of laughter (Study 2). Their facial responses will be videotaped (and subsequently analyzed using the Facial Action Coding System), and analysed together with the ratings of the stimulus material and the changes in positive and negative affectivity. In Study 3 participants will be confronted with positive emotions (videoclips of people describing joyful events), and emotional contagion is measured by questionnaires and facial expression (latency, intensity, frequency of Duchenne displays). In Study 4 the participant’s verbal and behavioural responses to positive hedonic activities in general (e.g., sensory pleasures) will be recorded and analysed (FACS, content analysis). These may be experienced socially or alone and may involve the potential for ridicule or not. Expected value of the proposed projects: The study has an impact on both, the scientific and the applied field. It provides (a) basic knowledge on the interplay of key emotions and the fear of being laughed at; (b) further understanding of the experiential world of those who fear being laughed at (i.e., putative generalisation of low joy experiences to smiling/laughter-related situations); (c) further consolidation of a new individual differences variable in personality psychology; (d) possible implications in the applied field (i.e., intervention programs for bullying-victims).
Publications / Publikationen Führ, M., Platt, T., & Proyer, R. T. (in press). Testing the relations of gelotophobia with humor as a coping strategy and self-ascribed loneliness, reflectivity, attractiveness, self-acceptance, and life expectations. European Journal of Humour Research.

Hofmann, J., Platt, T., Ruch, W. & Proyer, R. (2015). Individual differences in gelotophobia predict responses to joy and contempt. Sage Open, 5(2), 1 – 12. doi:10.1177/2158244015581191

Platt. T. & Forabosco, G. (2013). Gelotophobia: The fear of being laughed at. In P. Gremigni (Ed.), Humor and health promotion (pp. 229-253). New York, NY: Nova Science Publishers.

Platt, T., Hofmann, J., Ruch, W. & Proyer, R. T. (2014). Interview with a gelotophobe. A FACS study. Manuscript in preparation.

Platt, T., Hofmann, J., Ruch, W., & Proyer, R. T. (2013). Duchenne display responses towards sixteen enjoyable emotions: Individual differences between no and fear of being laughed at. Motivation and Emotion, 37, 776-786. doi:10.1007/s11031-013-9342-9

Platt, T., Proyer, R. T., Hofmann, J., Ventis, L. (2015). Gelotophobia in Practice and the Implications of Ignoring It. European Journal of Humor Research.

Platt, T., & Ruch, W. (2009). The emotions of gelotophobes: Shameful, fearful and joyless? Humor: International Journal of Humor Research, 22, 91-110. doi:10.1515/HUMR.2009.005

Platt, T., & Ruch, W. (2010). Gelotophobia and age: Do disposition towards ridicule and being laughed at predict coping with age-related vulnerabilities? Psychological Test and Assessment Modeling, 52, 231-244.

Platt, T., Ruch, W., Hofmann, J., & Proyer, R. T. (2012). Extreme fear of being laughed at: Components of gelotophobia. The Israeli Journal of Humor Research: An International Journal, 1, 86-106.

Platt, T. et al. (2013). Components of gelotophobia and the inability to distinguish between ridicule and teasing. Manuscript in preparation.

Proyer, R. T. (2014). Gelotophobia (Vol. 1, pp. 256-259). In S. Attardo (Ed.), Encyclopedia of humor studies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Proyer, R. T., Flisch, R., Tschupp, S., Platt, T., & Ruch, W. (2012). How does psychopathy relate to humor and laughter? Dispositions towards ridicule and being laughed at, the sense of humor, and psychopathic personality traits. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 35, 263-268. doi:10.1016/j.ijlp.2012.04.00

Proyer, R. T., Neukom, M., Platt, T., & Ruch, W. (2012). Assessing gelotophobia, gelotophilia, and katagelasticism in children: An initial study on how six to nine-year-olds deal with laughter and ridicule and how this relates to bullying and victimization. Child Indicators Research, 5, 297-316. doi:10.1007/s12187-011-9127-1

Proyer, R. T., Platt, T., & Ruch, W. (2010). Self-conscious emotions and ridicule: Shameful gelotophobes and guilt free katagelasticists. Personality and Individual Differences, 49, 54-58. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2010.03.007

Proyer, R. T., & Ruch, W. (2010). Dispositions towards ridicule and being laughed at: Current research on gelotophobia, gelotophilia, and katagelasticism (Editorial). Psychological Test and Assessment Modeling, 52, 49-59. (two special topics in Psychological Test and Assessment Modeling)

Proyer, R. T., Wellenzohn, S., & Ruch, W. (2014). Character and dealing with laughter: The relation of self- and peer-reported strengths of character with gelotophobia, gelotophilia, and katagelasticism. The Journal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary and Applied, 148, 113-132. doi:10.1080/00223980.2012.752336

Ruch, W. (2009). Fearing humor? Gelotophobia: The fear of being laughed at Introduction and overview. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research, 22, 1-25. doi:10.1515/HUMR.2009.001

Ruch, W., Hofmann, J., & Platt, T. (2015). Individual differences in gelotophobia and responses to laughter-eliciting emotions. Personality and Individual Differences, 72, 117 – 121. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2014.08.034

Ruch, W., Hofmann, J., Platt, T., & Proyer, R. T. (2014). The state-of-the art in gelotophobia research: A review and some theoretical extensions. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research, 27, 23-45. doi:10.1515/humor-2013-0046

Weitere Informationen: Part 1 of special issue in PTAM (2010-1):[pointer]=1&tx_ttnews[tt_news]=1379&tx_ttnews[backPid]=204&cHash=fb0815d9f9 and Part 2 of special issue in PTAM (2010-2):[pointer]=1&tx_ttnews[tt_news]=1482&tx_ttnews[backPid]=204&cHash=880503e170

Project leadership and contacts /
Projektleitung und Kontakte
Prof.Dr. Willibald Ruch (Project Leader)
Dr. René T. Proyer
Dr. Tracey Platt
Dr. Jennifer Hofmann
Other links to external web pages
Funding source(s) /
Unterstützt durch
SNF (Personen- und Projektförderung)
Duration of Project / Projektdauer Dec 2009 to Dec 2016