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Humor: Its targets and functions in relation to group development stages

Thomas Frederick Landis-Schiff, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The purpose of this study was to examine the targets and functions of humor in relation to group development processes in order to ascertain if there were any changes and patterns in the way groups use humor as they evolve through developmental stages. Four small groups, consisting of five or six, were videotaped. Tapes were observed and coded by trained observers. Coding categories were incident, target, and social function(s). In addition, observers assessed group development stage via the Group Development Stage Analysis instrument (Carew, Parisi-Carew, Stoner & Blanchard, 1988). Data were also obtained from examination of transcriptions of the videotapes, group participants' journals of the experience, exit interviews, and written exit responses. Combinations of quantitative and qualitative methods were used to analyze the data obtained. By using these approaches, observable phenomena were linked with participant experience and perception to ascertain connections of humor to group dynamics. All of the groups manifested similar patterns in the functional use of humor in relation to group development stages. Evidence of discernable "humor stages" (Just Joking, Evoking, Yoking, Poking) was identified and delineated. The stages reflect the unfolding of both overt and underlying relationship issues present within a group as it develops. The results of this study should offer a greater understanding of changes in the way groups use humor in relation to developmental processes. This is particularly important in helping people learn to use humor in more constructive ways, such as enhancing creativity and reaching consensus, and to prevent destructive uses of humor, such as perpetuating stereotypes and scapegoating.

Subject Area

Education|Social psychology

Recommended Citation

Landis-Schiff, Thomas Frederick, "Humor: Its targets and functions in relation to group development stages" (1992). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9233086.