As a society, we often judge people based on small snippets of their behavior. For example, we may judge a person’s confidence, competence and status on the success of a single joke.
Is humor worth the risk? Humor incurs costs and confers benefits. Alison Wood Brooks ran a series of studies to investigate the effects of telling jokes in a professional setting. First, she recruited 166 participants to present testimonials for a fictional waste removal service that cleans pet owners’ yards, planting two research assistants with prepared testimonials. The first presenter always read a serious testimonial, but the second alternated between a serious testimonial and the following: “Very professional. After cleaning up the poop, they weren’t even upset when they found out that I don’t have a pet!”
Participants were asked to rate the testimonials and the presenters. She found that the second presenter was perceived as more competent, more confident and higher in status when presenting the joke testimonial.
Despite these findings, one might imagine a scenario in which a joke falls flat. Do bad jokes increase status too? In a second study, participants
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