Date of Award


Degree Name

Communication Studies


College of Liberal Arts

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Cynthia Torppa

Second Advisor

Jill Underhill

Third Advisor

Camilla Brammer


The purpose of this thesis study was to discover whether person-centered supportive messages utilizing affiliative humor were more likely to create positive outcomes than supportive messages that did not utilize these strategies. Receiving high quality social support when distressed has been associated with numerous positive outcomes. Research explaining different factors which influence supportive message outcomes can aid both laypersons and practitioners attempting to provide support to distressed individuals. To this end, this examination sought to explore whether the addition of affiliative humor can enhance the effectiveness of supportive messages. Three hypotheses were tested using a 2(scenario: academic, housing) x 2(person-centeredness: low, high) x 2(humor: included, not included) experimental survey design. Participants were first randomly assigned to imagine themselves in one of two distressing scenarios (academic or housing-related). They were then asked to read a message that ostensibly would come from a friend in reaction to the distressing scenario. Participants were then randomly assigned to a message that varied by degree of person-centeredness (low, high) and the inclusion of humor (not included, included). Participants were asked to evaluate the message’s perceived helpfulness, supportiveness and sensitivity. Results showed that highly person-centered messages were perceived as more helpful, supportive, and sensitive; however, humor did not enhance these perceptions. To the contrary, in some conditions, humorous messages were rated significantly less helpful and sensitive than their non-humorous counterparts. Further analysis revealed no interactions between person-centeredness and affiliative humor. Implications of the study and directions for future research are discussed.


Interpersonal communication.

Wit and humor.