First Advisor

Tina Burdsall

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Psychology and University Honors






Wit and humor in medicine -- Research, Black humor -- Research, Adjustment (Psychology), Emergency medical personnel -- Mental health, Emergency medical personnel -- Job stress, Interpersonal relations, Medical personnel -- Mental health, Medical personnel -- Job stress




The use of dark, or "black" humor by professionals in trauma-and-crisis-centered occupations is common, with fields such as healthcare, crime, emergency response, and social work reporting frequent use of dark humor on the job. Using a literature review approach, peer-review articles were examined to understand the function that dark humor plays in trauma-and-crisis-centered fields. The findings suggest that dark humor acts as a coping mechanism, and contributes to various group dynamics between colleagues. The literature was also reviewed for the effects that dark humor has on patients or people in contact with trauma-and-crisis personnel. While some preliminary findings point to a relevant connection between humor, bias, and prejudice, the research in this area is scant and in need of further investigation. This review contributes to the literature by analyzing the most salient explanations behind why and how dark humor is used by professionals working in trauma-and-crisis-centered fields, and then offers a new direction for this research which considers the potential consequences dark humor may have on the institutions and communities being served. The population of interest is also expanded in this review, as trauma-and-crisis-centered field refers to a larger body of occupations that deal with death and trauma, but that may not be emergency services. Recommendations for the future include education about ethical concerns surrounding dark humor, positive behavior modeling from senior staff, and further investigation into how dark humor interacts with one’s biases and prejudices, and in turn, patient quality-and-quantity of care.


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