Why do people laugh at sexist humor? An investigation of the factors influencing perception of sexist humor
A. Preethi Devi
Quek, Ming Jie
Date of Issue2017-03-30
Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information
This study explores the contradiction between individually-held beliefs and reactions to sexist humor. The foundational basis of the study includes the benign violation theory, which posits that a joke is considered humorous when there is a violation of expectations that the receiver interprets as being benign, and the normative window theory of prejudice, which posits that social groups are placed on a scale based on how justified it is for individuals to discriminate and be prejudiced against them. This study investigates the effect of the following variables posited to influence perceived benignity: social context, hypothetical distance, feminism, and gender. An experiment was conducted in an online setting using memes as a medium for humor. The research findings support the hypothesis that the lower the level of feminism within individuals, the funnier individuals will rate the sexist humor, and that when the victim of the sexist humor is a female, males perceived the sexist humor to be funnier as opposed to females. Contrary to predictions, it was also observed that individuals found sexist humor to be funnier when shown in a formal social context rather than an informal social context as well as when under the condition of low hypothetical distance rather than high hypothetical distance. With these findings, we discuss and form an understanding as to why individuals might laugh at sexist humor, while identifying as non-sexists.
Final Year Project (FYP)
Nanyang Technological University