Physiological changes to humor and their correlates with affective states: A preliminary study, Chu WANG, Xu SHAO , Yanli JIA , Timo J. LAJUNEN , Wei WANG


Background: Humor produces laughter which contributes positively to psychological wellbeing, and the amusement effect is related to the affective state of an individual.  Physiological responses to humor might help to characterize the influence of the affective state.

Methods: We invited 25 healthy participants to undergo the Mood Disorder Questionnaire, the Hypomania Checklist-32, and the Plutchik – van Praag Depression Inventory, and undertake the peripheral electromyography, galvanic skin response, and electrocardiogram tests to 20 Chinese acoustic jokes.  

Results: There were no gender differences regarding questionnaire scales or the physiological indicators.  However, the electromyographic change was positively correlated with depression scale in females, and with mania scale in all participants (especially in males); and the galvanic skin response change with depression in all participants.  The response latency was correlated with the galvanic skin response change in females, and with heart rate change in all participants (especially in males). 

Conclusions: We have demonstrated that individual’s affective states influence the physiological responses to humor, which might help to illustrate the psychophysiological mechanisms of psychiatric disorders.

Keywords:Chinese joke; depression; humor; mania; peripheral neurophysiology