Scientists have identified 4 types of humor

This content is recommended for 30~60 minute sessions. Note that tutors may not be familiar with the content. Make sure you consult with your tutor before using this material. 


After a quick greeting, read the following article out loud. Your tutor will go over pronunciation if necessary.

Daxiao Productions/

[P1] Humor varies greatly from person to person, and what one person finds funny won’t necessarily appeal to someone else. Psychologist Rod Martin took a stab at quantifying humor, and in 2003 he identified what he called the four broad styles of humor:

  • affiliative
  • self-enhancing
  • aggressive
  • self-defeating

[P3] Martin broke down each style in the Journal of Research in Personality. Affiliative humor, he said, is used “to enhance one’s relationships with others,” and involves engaging in banter and cracking jokes with friends. Self-enhancing humor involves making yourself feel better by finding humor in your situation. Aggressive humor is marked by sarcasm, teasing, and ridicule, and self-defeating humor involves putting yourself down to gain approval from others.

[P4] Virtually everyone’s sense of humor is a blend of different humor styles, but many people tend to lean in one direction, Martin said. If you’re curious about which style of humor you have, you’re in luck. Along with his findings, Martin published a questionnaire that is available to take online at The Cut.

[P5] The questionnaire asks you to rate on a scale from 1 to 5 how much you agree with statements like “I often go overboard in putting myself down when I am making jokes or trying to be funny” and “If I am feeling sad or upset, I usually lose my sense of humor.”

[P6] Each style of humor has its advantages and disadvantages and can reveal a lot about the individual. Affiliative and self-enhancing humor are both linked to extroversion, for example, while self-defeating humor is linked to neuroticism. But every type of humor, even aggressive humor, has its place, Martin said. “It’s really the way we use humor that is most important,” he said. “Not so much how funny you are, but how you use humor in advancing relationships or in detrimental ways.”

[P7] Regardless of your specific humor style, the benefits of having a sense of humor are clear. Studies have shown funny people are rated more attractive and that humor boosts perceptions of confidence and status. And humor between romantic partners is critical in building a lasting relationship, one researcher found.



Read the word/expression and definition out loud. Your tutor will go over anything you do not understand. Practice creating a sentence or two to make sure you know how to use the word/expression properly.

Vocabulary/ Expressions

Expression Definition
take a stab at (exp) to attempt or try
e.g. Would you like to take a stab at explaining the theory?
banter (n) talk in which people make jokes about each other in a friendly way
e.g. I enjoyed hearing their good-natured banter.
go overboard (v) to go too far; to exceed reasonable bounds.
e.g. You can decorate the new room, but don’t go overboard with surreal paintings.
detrimental (adj) causing damage or injury
e.g. The detrimental [=harmful] effects of overeating are well known.
boost (v) to increase the force, power, or amount of (something)
e.g. The company needs to find ways to boost [=improve] morale

Discussion Questions

Use the following questions as a guideline to help develop an interesting conversation with your tutor. Feel free to diverge from these suggestions if anything interesting comes up.

  1. Summarize the article in your own words.
  2. Describe the four types of humor. How are they different?
  3. Do you think it’s more difficult to be funny when speaking in a foreign language?
  4. What kind of humor do you have? Share your thoughts with your Cambly tutor!


Go over any new expressions or vocabulary that you learned today.

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