Phenomenological processes underlying coping humour
In Comparison to other psychological topics, research into humour is relatively limited, despite humour being a ubiquitous phenomenon and an important coping tool. The few studies that have been performed have mainly adopted the approach of quantifying humour using psychometric measures. The inconsistent findings of these studies prompted the starting point of this thesis, which replicates a study testing the stress moderating effects of humour according to various psychometric measures. This replication, which produced nonsignificant results, raised important questions on the effectiveness of this methodology and initiated a shift from a positivist to a constructivist paradigm, which subsequently shaped the focus of the thesis. The thesis presents a study of people's use of humour as a means of coping with stress and difficulty, using reversal theory as a conceptual framework. The intention was to generate a deeper and more coherent understanding of the processes underlying coping humour and to work towards developing a theory of coping humour based on experiential evidence. The method of approach was an empirical, qualitative investigation and analysis within a constructivist paradigm. The main data presented are interviews in which the discussion of coping humour experiences was encouraged. A repeated content analysis, guided by the principles of grounded theory, was essential in uncovering layers of meaning in the phenomenological data. This led to an interpretative account of coping humour, expressed in the form of a model. The model of coping humour contains six dynamically interacting elements, which offer a criterion for coping humour to work effectively. The model's constituent elements expand existing theories of humour by giving them greater depth and coherence. Furthermore, the model can operate as an interpretative framework, accommodating the unique variation of each episode of coping humour. The main contribution of this thesis is to provide a model of coping humour that offers a working theory substantiated by experiential evidence that is both generative and evolving. A further contribution is to highlight weaknesses within current measures of humour, and to offer suggestions for improvement based on the more realistic and meaningful portrayal of humour that has been generated.