Women's and Men's Accounts of Humor Preferences and Practices


  • The authors thank Sharon Armstrong for her help with the content analysis; Kathryn Hauze, for her help with the literature review and the early stages of writing; Alice Sheppard-Klack, who provided helpful comments on an earlier draft and made available to us a copy of Mitchell's 1976 dissertation; and three anonymous reviewers.

Address reprint requests to: Mary Crawford, Department of Psychology, West Chester University, West Chester, PA 19383.


Empirical research on humor has perpetuated, rather than challenged, stereotypes of the humorless female. Among other biases, it has neglected participants' own definitions of “sense of humor” and their own accounts of their preferences and practices. In this study, 203 participants (72 males, 131 females) answered a 68-item Humor Questionnaire and also wrote a narrative about a person with an outstanding sense of humor. Factor analysis of the questionnaire revealed ten dimensions of humor, with four of the ten producing gender differences. Content analysis of the narratives produced a detailed account of the participants' definition of sense of humor. Both males and females viewed creativity, contextual relevance, and caring as components of an outstanding sense of humor. Gender similarities and differences are discussed in relation to the conversational context of spontaneous humor.