Humor types and emotion regulation in remitted depression.
This experiment was aimed to investigate humor - as an emotion regulation strategy - and compared the effects of its two specific forms: humor related to distress and humor unrelated to distress. We predicted that humor related to distress, because of its mechanism involving a dramatic reinterpretation of a distressing issue, is more adaptive than humor unrelated to distress. Remitted depressed outpatients (N = 122) were recruited to the study after psychiatric assessment, structuralised diagnostic interview (SCID I), and BDI II fullfilment. In addition, participants underwent neuropsychological assessments with the use of the d2 Test of Attention. The experiment consisted of a personal distress elicitation and subsequent application of one of three emotion regulation strategies (two humor conditions and one control condition). Each emotion regulation strategy involved the generation of a scenario - a simulation of events corresponding to one of three experimental conditions. Next, there was a manipulation check - participants were asked whether they were able to produce tha target scenario (yes/sort of/no) in terms of its level of subjective funniness and connection to ones's own distress. Finally, 17 participants were excluded from the analyses as outliers or extremes on the basis of boxplot, and 11 participants were excluded due to ineffectiveness of experimental manipulation. Then positive emotions, negative emotions, and experienced distress were measured (based on self-reports: single VAS scales from 0 - no intensity to 6- extremely high intensity) at four time points: before stress induction (T1), after distress induction (T2), immediately after manipulation (T3), and after 20 minutes delay (during which the participants watched a nature film and fulfilled the test of understanding the film content). In addition, in T3 there was a single assessment of invested efforts, while in T4 a subsequent performances and intrusive thoughts were measured. The main analysis was performed with the use of RMANOVA. Conditions were analysed as beetwen-subject fixed factor and intensity of emotions as within-subject factors. The level of depressive symptoms was included as covariate. Unlike rational simulation, both humor types improved emotional experience, and reduced distress in the short and longer terms. Humor unrelated to distress more effectively reduced negative emotions and intrusive thoughts. Moreover, although patients with impaired sustained attention did not recover their initial level of negative emotions, this did not pertain to those from humor unrelated to distress condition. Despite the expected costs of humor, similar efforts were needed when compared to control condition and no performance impairment after using both humor types was found. The results suggest that humor, expecially the one unrelated to distress, could be a beneficial strategy for dealing with distressing events in remitted depression.