First Advisor

Milton J. Bennett

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Speech Communication


Speech Communication




Wit and humor, Intercultural communication



Physical Description

1 online resource (117 p.)


A review of the theoretical and empirical literature from the field of humor and from that of intercultural communication showed that no investigations dealt with the possibility that a sense of humor might serve as an indicator of intercultural communication effectiveness. This study was conducted in order to assess that possibility.

This paper has set out to answer the following questions: What cognitive processes are common to a sense of humor and to intercultural communication effectiveness? What does one's ability to create and appreciate humor say about that individual's potential for intercultural communication effectiveness? Through the review of the literature, specific connections were suggested as theoretical connecting points or parallels. The processes suggested as common to humor and intercultural communication included the following: the ability to note difference; the ability to note and appreciate incongruity; the ability to process information both analytically and synthetically; the ability to shift frame of reference; the ability to perceive, communicate and maintain multiple perspectives; a tolerance for ambiguity; the possession of an internal locus of control; and the ability to act and react appropriately to others and to context.

In an attempt to develop a theoretical link between these processes considered crucial to a sense of humor and to intercultural communication effectiveness, cognitive complexity theory was examined. Through this examination it was found that the cognitively complex individual possessed qualities and abilities consistent with those which had been found to be typical of people with a sense of humor and with people considered to be effective intercultural communicators. This suggested that cognitive complexity could serve as the theoretical tool by which a sense of humor may be seen as an indicator of intercultural communication effectiveness.


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