Examining the Energizing Effects of Humor: The Influence of Humor on Persistence Behavior

David Cheng*, Lu Wang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: This paper examines whether, when, and how humor can increase individuals’ persistence. Design/Methodology/Approach: Two laboratory studies were conducted using 124 students from a large Australian university to examine the causal impact of humor exposure on persistence. Findings: The results show that exposure to humor increases individuals’ persistence in two different tasks and that this effect is mediated by the discrete emotion of amusement (Study 1). Moreover, the positive effect of humor on persistence is stronger for individuals with higher levels of self-enhancing humor style (Study 2). Implications: Humor is not only entertaining but also replenishing. Individuals engaging in activities that require persistence may benefit from exposure to humor. Therefore, organizations that require their employees to persist may consider creating a playful culture that encourages the use of humor to increase employees’ persistence. Originality/Value: Our study is the first to systematically examine the influence of humor on persistence. Going beyond anecdotal and correlational evidence, we document the causal impact of humor exposure on persistence using an experimental design. The findings contribute to the psychology of persistence by showing that humor can be used to increase persistence behavior. In addition, ours is the first study to show that the discrete emotion of amusement mediates the relationship between humor and persistence, and that the effect of humor on persistence is greater for individuals who are high in self-enhancing humor style.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)759-772
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Business and Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2015
Externally publishedYes

Cite this