Cultivating interest in science through humor: Mirth as a leveler of gaps in science engagement

Michael A. Cacciatore, Yeo, S. K., Becker, A. B., & Anderson, A. A. (2023, May). “Cultivating interest in science through humor: Mirth as a leveler of gaps in science engagement,” Paper presentation at the annual convention of the International Communication Association (ICA 2023), Toronto, Canada.

Abstract: This paper expands on existing science humor scholarship by looking at an underexplored contextual factor—the identity of the speaker delivering the jokes—and how that might impact audience reception of a video featuring stand-up science comedy. In taking this approach, we focus primarily on the credentials assigned to the speaker (scientist vs. comedian), the mirth experienced by participants after viewing the video, and the trust that audience members have in both scientists and comedic media personalities. Our overarching goal is to better understand how communicator characteristics impact audience reception of funny science content, and to identify effective strategies for using humor to expand the audience for science and environmental content.

The differential effects of science humor on three scientific issues: Global warming, artificial intelligence, and microbiomes

Yeo, S. K., Su, L. Y.-F., Michael A. Cacciatore, Zhang, J. S., & McKasy, M. (in press). “The differential effects of science humor on three scientific issues: Global warming, artificial intelligence, and microbiomes,” International Journal of Science Education, Part B.

Abstract: Humor is widespread in communication and its use in the context of science is no exception. Although science jokes are pervasive on social media, we are only beginning to understand the mechanisms through which humor affects people’s attitudes, opinions, and perceptions of scientific topics. Here, we add to our understanding of how funny science content influences attitude formation and behavioral intentions; these results can help communicators make strategic decisions related to humor’s use in real-world practice. Extending recent work in science communication, this study aims to understand the conditional nature of the mechanism by which funny images about three different scientific topics, combined with verbal humor, affects people’s social media engagement intentions by eliciting mirth. Our results offer evidence that choices about which humor types to employ matter when it comes to communicating scientific topics. For two of the three topics, artificial intelligence and microbiomes, exposure to different humor types resulted in different levels of mirth and humor’s effect on engagement intentions was moderated by respondents’ need for humor. However, humor did not have the same effect on global warming engagement intentions. Our findings have implications for the practice of, training, and scholarship in science communication.

Humor can increase perceived communicator effectiveness regardless of race, gender, and expertise—If you’re funny enough

Yeo, S. K., Becker, A. B., Michael A. Cacciatore, Anderson, A. A., & Patel, K. (in press). “Humor can increase perceived communicator effectiveness regardless of race, gender, and expertise—If you’re funny enough,” Science Communication.

Abstract: Across a wide range of issues and a variety of sources, scientific information often gets lost in translation, failing to properly inform, educate, and engage publics in a meaningful way. But science communication is like a wine—it’s better when it’s outside the box. One promising tactic for more effective scientific communication is the use of humor to both engage and educate less interested and knowledgeable citizens on important topics. Here, we investigate whether the identity of a speaker influences perceptions of their effectiveness at connecting with and engaging public audiences. We conducted a 2 (gender: female vs. male) × 2 (race: black speaker vs. white speaker) × 2 (credentials: scientist vs. comedian) between-subjects experiment and found that race and gender of the source, relative to their credentials, were not significant factors for predicting perceptions of communicator effectiveness. We also found that experienced humor, or mirth, moderated the relationship between the speaker’s credentials and perceived effectiveness. We discuss the implications of our findings for science communication research and practice.

Examining the effects of violence level and provocation on aversive motivation activation and resource allocation in violent humorous ads

Frank, A. (PhD student), Read, G. L., Duncan, J. (PhD student), Hatfield, H. R. (PhD student), & Kim, S (former PhD student). “Examining the effects of violence level and provocation on aversive motivation activation and resource allocation in violent humorous ads,” paper to be presented at 2023 International Communication Association. Toronto, Canada.

Abstract: Our study’s purpose is to examine the balance between humor and violence in ads on cognitive and affective processing of the ad and brand. Prior research suggests positive consumer response to comedic violence in ads may hinge on whether the violence is justified or ‘deserved’ in retaliation to a provocation. Others examined the effectiveness of this marketing strategy on different genders and attitudes toward social norm violations, such as men responding more positively than women to extreme comedic violence. Yet less is known about consumers’ cognitive and emotional processing of comedic violence in ads. We will examine the interaction of violence and provocation in humorous ads upon emotional and cognitive response, specifically probing emotional responses associated with motivational activation and resource allocation as mechanisms underlying the violent humorous ads on overall ad outcomes–e.g., ad and brand attitudes and purchase intentions.

Humor as a Buffer to Negativity in Advertising

Hye Jin Yoon, “Humor as a Buffer to Negativity in Advertising.” Invited lecture at the School of Journalism and Advertising, Southern Illinois UniversityCarbondale, IL, October 24, 2022. 

Will humor increase the effectiveness of human papillomavirus (HPV) advertising? Exploring the role of humor, STD information, and knowledge

Abstract: In this research, we seek to provide effective message strategies to communicate stigma associated health issues such as the human papillomavirus (HPV), by exploring the roles of humor, STD information, and objective HPV knowledge. Conducted with a 2 (Humor: no vs. yes) x 2 (STD information: no vs. yes) between-subjects experiment with objective HPV knowledge as a measured moderator, findings suggested that for the lower HPV knowledge subjects, the humor ads produced higher attention to the ad, more favorable ad attitudes (Aad), and greater behavioral intention to seek HPV prevention and treatment than the no-humor ads when there is no STD information. However, when STD information was present, for the lower HPV knowledge individuals, the no-humor ads produced greater attention and more positive Aad than the humor ads. Humor and STD information in the ads did not affect higher HPV knowledge individuals. Implications for theory as well as practice are discussed. 

Are you JOKING??? Humor in science communication research and practice

Abstract: Scientists have long incorporated humor into their communication, whether it be in informal presentations or peer-reviewed journal articles. Though it seems evident that humor could make stodgy scientific writing more engaging and fun, where is the scientific evidence that it actually empowers science communication? In this session we will discuss research on the use of humor in scientific publications, talk about the implications and caveats of humor use, discuss examples of such use, and share experience into the benefits of using humor in scientific communication.

Comedic violence in advertising: Cultural third-person effects among U.S., Korean, and Croatian consumers

Abstract: Humor is a popular appeal used in global advertising and with the growing use of comedic violence ads in the U.S., it is a worthwhile endeavor to see whether comedic violence ads by U.S. brands could travel globally. This research conducted three studies in three countries, chosen for their distinctively different cultural tendencies and market potential: the U.S., Korea, and Croatia. Across the studies it was found that (1) individuals in the U.S. used aggressive humor in daily life more than Koreans or Croatians, (2) U.S. had higher perceived humor and ad attitudes toward the comedic violence ad than in Korea or Croatia, and (3) U.S. individuals found the comedic violence ad funnier for themselves than for others in different cultures while Koreans thought the ad was less funny for themselves than for others in different cultures. Croatians did not have response differences between self vs. others. Theoretical and practical implications of the findings are discussed.