Fakultäten » Philosophische Fakultät » Psychologisches Institut » Persönlichkeitspsychologie und Diagnostik » Prof. Dr. Willibald Ruch » Ruch

Completed research project

Title / Titel Humour and virtues
PDF Abstract (PDF, 14 KB)
Original title / Originaltitel Humor und Tugenden
Summary / Zusammenfassung During history, humour has been appraised very differently. For example, while humour has been seen as neutral or as vicious (for example in the 16th century in Christianity), sense of humour even was regarded a virtue in the 18th century (see Schmidt-Hidding, 1963). Psychological research treated the sense of humour conceptually as a temperamental trait, as ability, or mental attitude. Yet until now, the measurement of humour as a virtue has not been realized. This project approaches the sense of humour as a virtue in four major paths. (a) Using existing questionnaires for the measurement of humour, aspects of the sense of humour that are seen as more vicious, neutral or more virtuous are identified. Among the latter, experts identify the nature of the virtue (i.e., by assigning them to one or more of the six universal virtues identified by Dahlsgaard, Peterson, & Seligman, 2005; i.e., courage, justice, humanity, temperance, transcendence, and wisdom). (b) “Laughing at oneself” (as a core component of the sense of humour) which implies the virtuous aspect of modesty, is addressed in different methodological approaches including behavior observation (Using the Facial Action Coding System, FACS, Ekman, Friesen, & Hager, 2002). (c), the actual use of humour to realize virtues in everyday life is examined. Individuals report actual situations in which they or their interaction partners accomplished a certain virtue by using humour. On basis of this pool of situations an instrument measuring humour as a mean of realizing the six cardinal virtues is created and validated. The instrument will assess the sense of humour as a virtue in conceptually varying approaches, i.e., as temperamental trait, as humour appreciation, and as ability. And (d) two kinds of virtuous humor are derived from comic styles (Schmidt-Hidding, 1963), namely benevolent and corrective humor. First, these two concepts are established as virtue-related and trait-like. Second, a cross-cultural short measurement is developed to measure benevolent and corrective humor. Third, the concepts and their facets are investigated more deeply by using multi-methodological approaches to arrive at a more comprehensive measurement instrument of virtue-related humor.
Publications / Publikationen Beermann, U., & Ruch, W. (2009). How virtuous is humour? Evidence from everyday behavior. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research, 22, 395-417. doi:10.1515/HUMR.2009.023

Beermann, U, & Ruch, W. (2011). Can people really "laugh at themselves"--Experimental and correlational evidence. Emotion, 11, 3, 492–501. doi:10.1037/a0023444

Beermann, U., & Ruch, W. (2009). How virtuous is humour? What we can learn from current instruments. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 4, 528-539. doi:10.1080/17439760903262859
Müller, L., & Ruch, W. (2011). Humor and strengths of character. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 6, 368-376. doi:10.1080/17439760.2011.592508

Beermann, U., Gander, F., Hiltebrand, D., Wyss, T., and Ruch (2009). Laughing at oneself: Trait or state? In E. Bänninger-Huber & D. Peham (Eds.), Proceedings of the FACS-Workshop 2007. Innsbruck, Austria: Innsbruck University Press, 31-35.

Müller, L & Ruch, W. (2011). Humor and strengths of character. Journal of Positive Psychology, 6, 368–376. doi:10.1080/17439760.2011.592508

Ruch, W. & Heintz, S. (in press). The virtue gap in humor: Exploring benevolent and corrective humor. Translational Issues in Psychological Science: Special Issue on “The Psychology of Humor”.

Ruch, W., Platt, T., & Hofmann, J.(2014). The character strengths of class clowns. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 1075. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01075

Keywords / Suchbegriffe humour, sense of humour, virtue, laughing at oneself, FACS.
Project leadership and contacts /
Projektleitung und Kontakte
Prof. Dr. Willibald Ruch (Project Leader)
Dipl.-Psych. Sonja Heintz
Dr. Ursula Beermann  
Funding source(s) /
Unterstützt durch
Universität Zürich (position pursuing an academic career), No project-specific funding
Duration of Project / Projektdauer Feb 2005 to Dec 2017