Do individuals with autism lack a sense of humor? A study of humor comprehension, appreciation, and styles among high school students with autism

Ching Lin Wu, Lei Pin Tseng, Chih Pei An, Hsueh Chih Chen*, Yu Chen Chan, Chen I. Shih, Shu Ling Zhuo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Humor helps to build interpersonal bonds and allows individuals to feel closer. Previous research has generally claimed that individuals with autism have difficulty with interpersonal communication and social contacts, but there has been no such consensus regarding the sense of humor among individuals with autism. To address this issue, the present study aimed to compare the comprehension of, appreciation for, and preferred styles of humor between students with and without autism. The samples consisted of 177 high school students with autism and 177 control high school students. Every participant was within the normal range of intelligence. The gender ratio and age ratio of the two groups were maintained through pairwise sampling. The research tools were a questionnaire regarding the comprehension of and appreciation for nonsense and incongruity-resolution jokes, and the Humor Styles Questionnaire. The results show that the students with autism did not comprehend the nonsense jokes and incongruity-resolution jokes as well as the control students did, but they felt greater enjoyment when reading nonsense jokes. The students with autism preferred the nonsense jokes which is featured of less logical reasoning and using homophones for double-meaning. The tendencies toward affiliative humor, self-enhancing humor, and self-defeating humor among the students with autism were not as strong as those among the control students. Only the tendency toward aggressive humor was equal between two groups, showing that the students with autism still have sense of humor but tend to use hostile humor style. It is suggested to investigate the tendency of hostile humor in people with autism, and to provide them with affiliative humor to break the interpersonal stalemate experienced by individuals with autism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1386-1393
Number of pages8
JournalResearch in Autism Spectrum Disorders
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Oct


  • Autism
  • Humor appreciation
  • Humor comprehension
  • Humor style

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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