Humor and Persuasion

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Humor and Persuasion
July 30, 2012
COM 323

Humor and Persuasion

Do you think of yourself as funny, humorous or a joker of sorts? Many people feel they have what it takes to bring humor to different situations. Usually humor is used to lighten a mood or attitude and often makes people feel happy. Understanding that humor can play a very important role in speech enhance the awareness of the proper means and tactics in which to use humor. Persuasion often includes various forms of humor where the person trying to persuade intertwines the humor effect and brings lightness to the situation. Persuasion is the attempt to make others believe or comply with the speaker’s views or actions and adding humor often enables the audience to feel compelled to match their views with the speaker’s own views. Humor is said, on more than one occasion, to be effective in persuasion but with the effectiveness also comes the associated risks.

In the Journal of General Psychology, a study was done by Jim Lyttle, where he researched the effectiveness of humor and persuasion. He used business ethics training while trying to determine if humor plays a role and how much in persuasion. Cartoon images as well as wisecracks were used in the study to see which the audience responded to more. The basic study was, ““The Ethics Challenge," a training exercise used by the Lockheed Martin Corporation. Three versions were modified by adding or removing cartoon drawings (of cartoon characters Dilbert and Dogbert) and humorous responses (Dogbert's wisecracks). Removing the cartoon drawings had little effect on persuasiveness. Removing ironic wisecracks had more effect, and interfering with the self-effacing combination of cartoons and wisecracks had the strongest effect. The results suggest that researchers should ground their predictions in existing theory and that practitioners should differentiate among humor types.”(Lyttle 206-16) Understanding the study and seeing the results were quite impressive because it proves that some persuasion is more effective than others while combining the uses of persuasion and pictures or things of that nature helps even more. The article goes on to say how effective humor is, when used appropriately, in the aid of education and advertising. Humor often spices up an advertisement which in turn makes the audience feel more excited and more likely to accept that the product being advertised will really do what it is claiming. Also in reference to education, humor helps any instructor introduce and teach topics in an effective, lighter way that enables the students to learn and absorb the information. Introducing humor in education and advertising helps to create a positive receptive attitude of the receiver or audience.

I agree that humor is great to introduce in setting such as education and advertising but can also be very risky. One main risk that I feel is associated with introducing humor into persuasion is the risk that the audience may interpret the humor the wrong way and the speaker’s intent to persuade will turn against him/her. Understanding that the audience is and tailoring a speech to persuade based on the members is how I would go about adding and incorporating humor. It is very risky to enter a speech or try to persuade someone with the same type of humor but instead tailor to the audience and the reaction will, most likely, be more positive.

The second article from Kline and Kellaris, titled, The joint impact of humor and argument strength in a print advertising context: A case for weaker arguments, was written to show how humor is used effectively in advertising. When you think of watching TV and what the commercials are about, most would agree, the funny commercials and advertisements lightens the mood and are more easily remembered. The article goes on to say, “The role of humor in advertising has been the focus of considerable research. A survey of successful U.S....
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